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Real IRA McKevitt died without paying any damages to Omagh families

Real IRA founder and three others ordered to pay £1.6m but relatives didn't receive a penny

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Michael McKevitt

Michael McKevitt

Bomb horror: The scene of the Omagh bomb in 1998

Bomb horror: The scene of the Omagh bomb in 1998

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Michael McKevitt

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt died without handing over a penny of the £1.6m damages that he and three others were ordered to pay the Omagh families.

McKevitt, who headed the terror group formed in 1997 by dissident members of the Provisionals, died on Saturday of cancer.

The Dundalk father-of-six was found by Belfast High Court to be centrally involved in planning the Omagh bombing, but he never paid any of the £1.6m judgment against him and the other three found liable for the atrocity.

McKevitt was never convicted criminally, but spent 13 years in prison in the Republic after being found guilty by Dublin's Special Criminal Court of "directing terrorism", a new statute enacted following the attack on Omagh.

Last night the father of one of the Omagh victims said McKevitt was able to pass away peacefully in his bed surrounded by family, but those who perished in the August 1998 attack died in the street.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old Aiden, said: "You have this man who passed away in the comfort of his own bed with his family around him, but our families died in the gutter in the main street of Omagh."

Twenty-nine people, along with unborn twins, died, and more than 200 were injured, in the bombing, which McKevitt always denied orchestrating. The telephone message warning about the bomb delivered wrong information leading police to direct people towards the device rather than away.

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But McKevitt was known as the founder and leader of the Real IRA, which was formed by those IRA members opposed to the peace process. He was previously a PIRA quartermaster and was central to moving arms and munitions from dumps for use by the breakaway group.

According to the official death notice, McKevitt died "peacefully at home in the presence of his loving family". He was married to Bernadette Sands McKevitt, the sister of Bobby Sands, and had six children, one deceased. He had two grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will take place on Tuesday morning at St Fursey's Church in Haggardstown, Co Louth, following removal from the family home in Beech Park, Blackrock.

Ms Sands McKevitt founded the 32 Sovereignty Committee but retreated from the role as its public face following her husband's 2003 conviction for directing terrorism.

In 2009, McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Seamus Daly and Colm Murphy were found liable for the bombing and ordered to pay £1.6m damages to 12 relatives. A fifth man, Seamus McKenna, was cleared of liability for the bombing.

McKevitt, Campbell and Murphy, all from Co Louth, were declared bankrupt by the High Court in Dublin last year on foot of an application by the families of the Omagh dead. They each had failed to pay €439,000.

While Mr Gallagher welcomed the successful pursuit of McKevitt civilly, he said: "It is the 23rd year and not one person has been held criminally responsible for the murders."

Mr Gallagher added: "None of the families have received any money as they have been able to dispose of their assets before the CAB (Criminal Assets Bureau) got hold of them.

"It is always the victims that suffer and McKevitt escaped justice in this world. He will have to face his maker, as we all do.

"But we wanted to hold these people accountable in this world, that is why we have a civilised society and laws. It is not an Old Testament eye for an eye because we are against murder."

On his 2003 conviction, Mr Gallagher said: "I think the authorities recognised he had to be taken out of the system because they knew he was a dangerous man.

"But we are in a strange position because this year we are remembering the foundation of this state, yet the worst atrocity in its history, in the history of the island in recent years, and no-one has been held accountable.

"That would not happen anywhere else, in Britain, in the US. There is something seriously wrong with that."

Mr Gallagher said he and the other families are still waiting to hear whether a public inquiry should be held into what the authorities north and south knew ahead of the bombing.

Kenny Donaldson, of Innocent Victims United, said his thoughts are with those who died in the Omagh bombing.

"When a terrorist dies a wave of emotions are experienced by those who were impacted by their criminal actions," he said.

"Do we take glee in his death? No we don't because to do so would make us subhuman alike the manner which he chose to live his life.

McKevitt's family, in the death notice, gave "heartfelt thanks to the medical staff of St James' Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital...the Irish Cancer Society, Dundalk Medical Centre and McQuillan's Pharmacy Blackrock."


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