Release plans reinstated for Real IRA leader McKevitt

U-turn means jailed terrorist to be freed within weeks for first period of short releases

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt  is nearing the end of a 20-year sentence.

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt is nearing the end of a 20-year sentence.

 

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt is set to begin an ongoing programme of temporary releases within weeks to prepare him for his full release from prison next year after a u-turn on the issue by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

The 65-year-old is nearing the end of a 20-year sentence and is now scheduled to enjoy a first short period of temporary release, likely for a weekend, by the end of the month.

A spokesman for Ms Fitzgerald said: “It is not the policy nor would it be appropriate for the Department to make any comment regarding the detail of the management of any individual prisoner’s sentence.”

The family of the jailed dissident republican leader received the support of five TDs, including former Fianna Fáil minister Éamon Ó Cuív, in lobbying for him to be released while recovering from recent surgery.

The five who have lobbied Ms Fitzgerald also include Independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Maureen O’Sullivan and Thomas Pringle.

Stephen McKevitt, the jailed man’s eldest son, said while his father was still not being released from Portlaoise Prison for a prolonged period to recover from having a cancerous kidney removed, the family welcomed the reinstatement of his pre-release programme, which is not linked to his illness.

“After our campaign began to gain some momentum which included the support of a number of TDs, Francis Fitzgerald reinstated the pre-release programme without explanation,” he said of the decision taken last Friday.

“My family is seeking clarity as to why the pre-release programme was revoked in the first place, then reinstated within days and most importantly why my father was returned to prison without even a basic medical assessment.”

McKevitt Snr, who was one of four men found liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing in a civil action taken by relatives of the dead, is serving 20 years for directing terrorism and was also convicted of membership of an illegal organisation.

He was returned to prison last month 5½ weeks after surgery to have a cancerous kidney removed.

His family told The Irish Times last week they believed he needed up to three months recovery at home. They added his being returned to prison on June 22nd came with no warning after three months of release on health grounds and was a political decision rather than a medical one.

They also said that a pre-release programme agreed for him from the present time to the expiry of his sentence next Easter had been cancelled without explanation at the same time he was returned to jail the week before last.

While the Dundalk man is serving 20 years, he will be freed after 15 years as he is entitled to 25 per cent remission. He has served 14½ years, with his full sentence set to expire around Easter.