McKevitt given 20-year jail term for terror offences


"Real IRA" leader Michael McKevitt has been given a 20-year jail sentence for directing terrorism and being a member of an illegal organisation.

The sentences are to run concurrently from the time of McKevitt's arrest in March 2001, meaning he will face just under 18 years in prison.

This is the first time in the history of the State that anyone has been convicted of directing terrorism, a new charge introduced in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb.

In the non-jury Special Criminal Court today McKevitt again refused to leave his holding cell when sentencing was being handed down. However, he appeared in the court after sentencing to apply for leave to appeal.

His application was refused by Presiding Judge Richard Johnson. In passing sentence, he said: "The court is satisfied that the offences were plannedand premeditated and contemplated to do serious harm to people and property.

"The accused played a leading role in the organisation which he directed and induced others to join".

However, Justice Johnson said he was mindful that the offences took place after the Omagh bombing and the court must not be seen to seek revenge for the atrocity.

He said that the court, in handing down the sentence, had taken into account that McKevitt was 53 and married with a young family and that he had already spent a long time in custody.

McKevitt of Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth, was yesterday found guilty of membership of an illegal organisation "styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA" between August 29th, 1999, and March 28th, 2001.

He was also found guilty of directing the activities of the organisation between August 29th, 1999, and October 23rd, 2000.

A spokesman for the Omagh Victims' Civil Action Group welcomed the sentence imposed on McKevitt but said its campaign to take the Omagh bombers to court would continue.

"McKevitt's conviction has strengthened our determination but we still need£800,000 [sterling] to fight our case. McKevitt, now a convicted terrorist, will have hisdefence paid for by the British taxpayer through legal aid.

"Liam Campbell, another convicted terrorist and also on our writ, will alsoget legal aid," he added.

McKevitt was prosecuted largely on the evidence of a former FBI spy, Mr David Rupert. In his ruling yesterday Mr Justice Johnson said the court was satisfied that the chief prosecution witness, Mr Rupert, was a "truthful witness" and that he had met McKevitt on several occasions.

The trial came to a speedy conclusion last month after McKevitt sacked his legal team, denouncing the hearing as a "political show trial".