The trial of the alleged leader of the “Real IRA,” Michael McKevitt, is expected to go ahead in February.
McKevitt is the first man in Ireland to be charged with directing terrorist activities and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The dissident republican, who is married to Bernadette Sands, the sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands, is said to have led the gang that carded out the Omagh bombing.
The key witness in the case against him is American David Rupert. Rupert was investigated by the FBI in connection with criminal offenses, including smuggling, but was never prosecuted.
Instead, McKevitt’s lawyers say Rupert was hired as a paid agent of the FBI and the British Intelligence Service. They have accused both agencies of deliberately keeping the Irish police in the dark about their dealings with the witness but have failed to get disclosure of documents which would provide more information on Rupert’s “extraordinary business background and certain aspects of his unusual private life.”
The Special Criminal Court has already heard that Rupert successfully infiltrated the “Real IRA’s” leadership and attended their Army Council meetings. It is claimed that McKevitt (51) from Beech Park, Blackrock, Co. Louth, was seen by gardai meeting Rupert on a number of occasions and that McKevitt had asked the American to procure arms for the dissident republican group.
Only one man has been convicted in relation to the Omagh atrocity. Last January Colm Murphy was sentenced to 14 years behind bars for his part in the 1998 bombing in which 29 people were killed including a woman who was pregnant with twins.
Murphy, a 49-year-old building contractor and publican from Co. Armagh, claims he has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, and says he had no hand, act or part in the atrocity. His appeal is expected to be heard next year. ♦