Michael McKevitt is considered to be the leader of the Real IRA
He hails from Blackrock, Co. Louth and is often seen walking the streets of this picturesque village with his wife Bernadette Sands McKevitt, sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands. The couple are deeply involved in the 32-County Sovereignty committee, the supposed political wing of the Real IRA.
The couple own a fish and chip business in the village and before the Omagh bombing, McKevitt would often be seen in one of the local pubs in the village. They also used to own a T-Shirt printing business in the town of Dundalk, but after the Omagh bombing, the owners of the shopping centre locked up the shop and refused to let the McKevitts conduct their business on the premesis anymore. The shop has remained untouched since that day, apart from the black painted roses that were laid outside by the angered and saddened people of Dundalk.
Blackrock had suddenly became a media circus, with all major news channels suddenly descending upon this quiet seaside village trying to get a glimpse of the McKevitts. They interviewed many local people to see what the public's reaction was to the bombing. The sentiment was the same for everybody.
Although it has never been proved or made official, it is common knowledge among all the residents of Blackrock that McKevitt's leadership of the Real IRA is absolute.
He is resented by all for who he is, what he has done and everything he stands for.
The couple have both been arrested on numerous occasions, and kept in police custody, but all attempts at a custodial conviction have so far been unsucsessful.
It is hoped that new evidence from American M15 agent David Rupert, who sucessfully infiltrated McKevitt's world and gained his trust, will help to impose a conviction of directing terrorism. This carries with it a life sentence.
The people of Dundalk and the victims of sectarian violence can only wait in hope.
UPDATE: 06th August 2003
David Rupert's evidence has resulted in the conviction on Michael McKevitt in an Irish court today. He will be sentenced tomorrow.
"McKevitt guilty of directing terrorism and membership
By Eoin Burke-Kennedy
The Special Criminal Court has found Michael McKevitt guilty of directing terrorism and being a member of an illegal organisation.
The alleged leader of the "Real IRA" faces a life sentence in prison. He refused to attend the court this morning to hear the judgment from the three-judge, non-jury court despite being directed to do so by the court.
McKevitt sent a note to the court from his holding cell, but it was not read out.
McKevitt (53) is the first person convicted of the offence of directing terrorism. The offence was one of a number of measures introduced by the Government following the Omagh bombing in 1998.
The trial ended more quickly than expected after Mr McKevitt sacked his legal team. He denounced the hearing as a "political show trial".
McKevitt, of Beech Park, Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth, denied membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, between August 29th, 1999, and March 28th, 2001. He also denied directing the activities of the same organisation.
During the 26-day trial, the court heard evidence from Mr David Rupert, an American who worked for the FBI and the British Security Service. Mr Rupert (51), a former trucking company boss and bar owner, said he infiltrated dissident republican groups for the FBI and the British Security Service.
The case hinged on the evidence of Mr Rupert, which was accepted by the three judges.
Presiding judge Richard Johnson said the court was "satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Rupert was a truthful witness."
"The court was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the evidence given by Mr David Rupert constituted that Mr McKevitt was directing terrorism and the evidence was open to no other interpretation," he added. "
UPDATE: 07th August 2003
He got a life sentence. There is some justice in the world after all.