Northern Ireland

Michael McKevitt: Former Real IRA leader loses release bid

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt Image copyright PA
Image caption Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was convicted of directing terrorism

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt has failed in his bid to be released from prison immediately.

McKevitt, of Beech Park, Blackrock in County Louth, was convicted of directing terrorism in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He was seeking a third off his sentence under an enhanced remission scheme.

The 59-year-old was the first person in the Republic of Ireland to be jailed for directing terrorism.

His sentence was backdated to 2001.

McKevitt had claimed that his participation in structured prison activities entitled him to enhanced one third remission of his prison sentence.

He claimed he was entitled to such remission because he had participated in activities including computer courses, speech and drama, art, French, yoga and an Open University course in creative writing.

Omagh bomb

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she was entitled to refuse him remission, taking into account police views and other matters relating to his risk of reoffending.

A judge on Tuesday ruled that participation in structured activities in prison had, as its object, a reduction in the likelihood of reoffending.

But he said the minister must be satisfied such an object had been achieved.

Simply because a prisoner engaged in structured activities, he said, did not mean a reduction in the likelihood of reoffending had automatically been achieved.

He said the minister was entitled to take into account all of the matters before her.

The judge said even if one excluded the evidence of police then there was an abundance of other material allowing the minister to reach her decision to refuse to grant him enhanced remission.

He refused to quash her decision and rejected McKevitt's application.

In a landmark civil case in 2009, the High Court in Belfast ruled McKevitt and three other men were responsible for the 1998 Omagh bomb that killed 29 people and unborn twins.

The other three men were Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly.

McKevitt did not face criminal charges in relation to the Omagh bombing.

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