Michael McKevitt ‘escaped justice’ for Omagh bombing – victim’s father

Former Real IRA leader was one of four men found liable for 1998 atrocity in civil case

The aftermath of the Omagh bombing in August 1998. Photograph: Frank Miller

The aftermath of the Omagh bombing in August 1998. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt has “escaped justice” for his role in the 1998 Omagh bombing, the father of one of the victims has said.

The dissident republican, from Blackrock in Co Louth, died on Saturday after being ill with cancer.

No one has ever been convicted of the Omagh atrocity in a criminal court. However, McKevitt and three others – Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly – were in 2009 found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil trial taken by the relatives of the victims. McKevitt always denied any involvement.

Michael Gallagher said it was “horrendous” to think that McKevitt “died in a comfortable bed with his family around him, unlike our families who died in the gutter on the Main Street in Omagh”.

“We’re now in the 23rd year [since the bombing] and no one has been held accountable for murder at Omagh. It just seems so unjust,” he said.

Mr Gallagher’s son Aidan was among 31 people, including unborn twins, who were killed when the Real IRA bomb exploded in the centre of the Co Tyrone town in August 1998.

Mr Gallagher said McKevitt had been found “guilty in a civil action but not in a criminal court, and I feel that with all that was known about the Omagh bomb, and the intelligence that was known prior to it, it’s a sad reflection both on the police forces on both sides of the Border that they couldn’t even put one person behind bars for this.”

Serious questions

Omagh was probably the worst atrocity of the 100 years of Northern Ireland’s existence, Mr Gallagher said, yet there was “not the political will” to bring those responsible to justice.

“Successive governments have not picked up this baton, and it’s been left basically to the families to shame the government and the people that committed this atrocity,” he said.

“I think there are serious questions here that some government at some time will need to answer because history will not look kindly on them on how this matter was failed to be resolved.”

McKevitt (71), was a member of the Provisional IRA who rose to become its quartermaster general but was opposed to the peace process and the Belfast Agreement. He later left and founded the dissident republican group the Real IRA.

In 2003 he became the first person in the history of the State to be convicted of the new offence of directing terrorism and was jailed for 20 years. He was also convicted of membership of the Real IRA, a proscribed organisation.

The Republican Network for Unity described him in a statement on Facebook as a “fearless and committed Republican soldier” and claimed he oversaw the importation of arms shipments from Libya in the 1980s and developed plans to assassinate UK prime minister Tony Blair.

McKevitt was married to Bernadette Sands McKevitt, a sister of the late IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. His funeral Mass will take place in Haggardstown, Co Louth, on Tuesday, and a death notice states it will be attended by family only in accordance with the current Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.