Belfast Telegraph

Dissident chief behind Omagh bomb critically ill

Michael McKevitt
Michael McKevitt
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The family of Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt has been called to his hospital bedside as he fights for his life.

It is understood McKevitt is critically ill.

The 70-year-old, one of four men found liable for the Omagh bombing following a landmark civil action by relatives of some of the victims, is being cared for at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. Family members have been by his bedside around the clock in recent days.

McKevitt is married to Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, a sister of 1981 hunger striker and MP Bobby Sands.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2015, McKevitt had a kidney removed while serving a 20-year sentence for directing terrorism.

Despite being found liable, he claimed to have had no involvement in the 1998 Omagh attack in which 29 people died, including a woman pregnant with twins. No-one has ever been convicted of the bombing, the single biggest atrocity of the Troubles.

A native of Co Louth, McKevitt joined the Provisional IRA at the outbreak of the Troubles.

In February 1975 he was shot in the knees by the Official IRA during a feud between the two groups.

He was a long-time senior member of the Provisional IRA before quitting in protest at its ceasefires.

McKevitt launched the dissident republican group the Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh bombing just four months after the Good Friday Agreement was signed off.

In 2009 the judge in a civil case in Belfast High Court ruled that McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were all liable for the bombing, ordering them to hand over £1.6m in damages.

Campbell and McKevitt took their case to Europe, arguing that the civil action in Belfast High Court had been unfair. Seven judges at the European Court of Human Rights unanimously rejected the case.

McKevitt was found guilty of directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation in August 2003.

During his trial Mr Justice Richard Johnson said "the accused played a leading role in the organisation (Real IRA) which he directed and induced others to join".

The prosecution's case was based largely on the testimony of an American FBI informant, David Rupert. According to information revealed in his trial, among his plans was to attempt the assassination of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Several appeals against his convictions were rejected.

In March 2015, McKevitt was granted temporary release in order to have treatment for a cancerous growth on his kidney. He underwent surgery to have the kidney surgically removed that May. On Easter Sunday 2016, McKevitt was formally released from prison on completion of his sentence.

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