Background and Real IRA activity
McKevitt, a native of County Louth, joined the Provisional IRA during the outbreak of the Troubles. In February 1975 he was shot in the knees by the Official IRA during a feud between the two organisations. He was a longtime senior member of the Provisional IRA and served as the organisation's Quartermaster General, a role which gave him unique personal knowledge of the whereabouts of, and access to PIRA arms dumps. He quit the organisation in protest at the movement's ceasefires and its participation through Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland peace process which led to the Good Friday Agreement. McKevitt launched a dissident offshoot of the PIRA called the Real IRA, using guns and weaponry he as the Quartermaster General of the PIRA had known the whereabouts of and had seized.
McKevitt was expelled from the Real IRA after a disagreement between a group of Real IRA prisoners in Portlaoise Prison and the outside leadership. The prisoners issued a statement urging the leadership to stand down claiming a criminal element had taken over. McKevitt and his supporters went on to form a group called the New Republican Forum.
In June 2009, McKevitt was one of four men found by a civil court to be liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing in a case taken by relatives of the victims. In April 2014, The Telegraph revealed that McKevitt, along with Liam Campbell, were appealing the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, citing the testimony of FBI agent David Rupert as a violation of their right to a fair trial.
Arrests, convictions, and appeals
McKevitt was convicted by the Republic of Ireland's non-jury Special Criminal Court on 6 August 2003 of two terrorist offences: "membership of an illegal organisation" (the Real IRA) and "directing terrorism" between 29 August 1999 and 23 October 2000. On 7 August 2003 he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. During his trial Mr. Justice Richard Johnson said of McKevitt, "The accused played a leading role in the organisation (Real IRA) which he directed and induced others to join." Given all possible reductions and remission, it means that the earliest he can be released is 2016. 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 British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
McKevitt appealed his convictions to the Court of Criminal Appeal, arguing that Rupert's testimony was unreliable since he had been paid large sums of money for his role as an informant (a total of £750,000 from the FBI and MI5), and because of Rupert's long criminal record. In December 2005, the court rejected these arguments and said that Rupert was a credible witness. Both of McKevitt's convictions were upheld. In July 2006, McKevitt was given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal was rejected on 30 July 2008.
In February 2014, The Irish Court of Criminal Appeal heard a petition from McKevitt arguing that he should receive a new appeal based on an Irish Supreme Court decision in 2012 which ruled an unrelated Garda search of a suspect's home illegal. On 20 May 2014, the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal rejected McKevitt's bid to have his new appeal heard by the Supreme Court.
In August 2014, McKevitt petitioned for release on the on grounds that, per Rule 59 (2) of Irish prison rules, McKevitt has not been given proper consideration by prison authorities for a one third remission of sentence taking into account model inmate behavior. On 1 September 2014, McKevitt withdrew his appeal and was granted release to prepare a new challenge based on judicial review. On 9 December 2014 his challenge was struck down by Dublin's High Court.
McKevitt is married to Bernadette Sands McKevitt, a sister of 1981 PIRA hunger striker and MP, Bobby Sands, who died during his hunger strike. Sands McKevitt was a leading member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and had been described in media reports as the third highest ranking Real IRA officer. She left the 32 County Sovereignty Movement following the imprisonment of her husband.
- Harnden, Toby (1999). Bandit Country. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 188–189. ISBN 0-340-71736-X.
- "Real IRA Leader Jailed". CBS News. August 7, 2003.
- Hanley & Millar, B & S (2009). The Lost Revolution: The story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party. Ireland: Penguin Ireland. p. 295. ISBN 978-1-84488-120-8.
- McDonald, Henry (2000-11-26). "Real IRA ready to blitz Britain". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- Hopkins, Nick (2001-03-05). "Police fear Real IRA bomb blitz". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- CAIN website.
- New Republican Forum
- "Four found liable for Omagh bomb". RTÉ News. 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- "Omagh bombing: Real IRA terrorists appeal to European Court". The Telegraph (London). April 19, 2014.
- Cowan, Rosie (2001-03-31). "Republican dissident charged in Dublin". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "McKevitt sentenced to 20 years". The Guardian (London). 2003-08-07. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "McKevitt sentenced to 20 years". The Guardian. August 7, 2003.
- Cowan, Rosie (2003-08-08). "Real IRA leader gets 20 years". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "Leader of Real IRA 'gave details for Blair assassination'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "Challenge to Real IRA conviction". BBC News. 2006-07-17. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "Real IRA leader to stay in jail as judges throw out appeal". Irish Independent. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-07-31.
- "Real IRA man McKevitt loses appeal over terrorism conviction". Irish Independent. 20 May 2014.
- "Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt in bid to overturn terror conviction". BBC News. February 18, 2014.
- "More applications for jail release expected after remission decision". The Irish Times. 9 August 2014.
- "Alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt's bid for early release has been delayed after his legal team went on holiday". Irish Independent. 13 August 2014.
- "'Model prisoner' Michael McKevitt in fresh bid for freedom". The Belfast Telegraph. 2 September 2014.
- "Michael McKevitt takes yoga and drama classes in jail". Irish Independent. 2 September 2014.
- "Real IRA Founder Fails to Win Early Irish Parole". Associated Press. 9 December 2014.
- "Trial told of `plot by Real IRA chief' to kidnap peers". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-02-12.[dead link]
- "The Framing of Michael McKevitt". Marcella Sands. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- BBC report 'Omagh families relief at McKevitt verdict'
- BBC analysis report
- 'Terrorist Group Profiles: Real IRA' From PATTERNS OF GLOBAL TERRORISM, 2002. United States Department of State, April 2003
- Air University Library Publications, TERRORIST AND INSURGENT ORGANIZATIONS July 2000
- Reuters news agency report on David Rupert's evidence at the McKevitt trial
- US government designation of the Real IRA as a 'terrorist organisation' in May 2003
- McKevitt loses appeal over terrorism sentence — RTÉ News article