herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

RIRA boss is out of jail and living at home on temporary release

Michael McKevitt has been being granted temporary release from prison
Michael McKevitt has been being granted temporary release from prison

The founder of the Real IRA terror group has been granted temporary release from Portlaoise Prison ahead of his due release date next March.

Michael McKevitt (65) has spent the last number of weeks at his home in Blackrock, Co Louth, after being granted temporary release, which is being constantly reviewed by the prison service on specific dates.

He is serving 20 years for directing terrorism and was also convicted of membership of an illegal organisation after being convicted in the Special Criminal Court in August, 2003.

He was the first person in the State to be jailed for directing terrorist activities and has been in custody since his arrest in March, 2001.

It is understood that the RIRA terror chief who has been suffering from poor health has to obey strict conditions to remain out of jail - including regularly signing on at a garda station.

McKevitt was one of four men found liable for the Omagh bombing in a civil action at Belfast High Court taken by relatives of the dead.

The Real IRA bomb killed 29 people and two unborn twins on August 15, 1998.

In June of this year, McKevitt lost an appeal against a High Court judgment refusing him early release.

McKevitt had been serving his sentence on the "E2 'Republican Landing" of the prison, an area reserved for Republican prisoners which has been in existence since the 1980s.

Cancerous

Even though McKevitt had surgery earlier this year to remove a cancerous kidney, his temporary release is not due to his ill health.

It is understood that McKevitt has been on temporary release since mid- November and has not come to adverse garda attention. The appeals court hearing last June shed light on what McKevitt did during his days in the many years he spent behind bars.

He was disciplined twice in 2001 and 2004 for breaching jail rules, but his overall positive influence on the E2 prisoners categorised him as having "enhanced" status within the prison, the judgment stated.

Apart from engaging in work on the landing, he participated in classes in computers, web design, photoshop, digital imaging, French, English, creative writing, speech and drama, music, art, home economics and yoga.

When he was handed the 20-year jail sentence, McKevitt refused to leave his holding cell in the courts complex to hear Mr Justice Richard Johnson deliver the judgment.

In its 43-page judgment, the court accepted the evidence of the key prosecution witness, David Rupert, the FBI and MI5 agent who testified that Michael McKevitt was the leader of the Real IRA.

McKevitt was a former quartermaster general of the Provisional IRA but he left that organisation and helped form the Real IRA because of his opposition to the peace process.

From 1997 to October 2000, there were more than 100 incidents involving the Real IRA, including explosions and weapons seizures.

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