Michael McKevitt

mckevittMichael McKevitt (1949- ) is a former IRA quartermaster general and a founding member of the Real IRA. McKevitt was born in Dundalk in the Irish Republic, close to the border with Northern Ireland. He joined the Provisional IRA shortly after the outbreak of the Troubles. McKevitt was reportedly involved in several IRA actions against the British Army during the early 1970s. In 1975 he was ‘kneecapped’ during an internecine feud with the Official IRA. ‘Mickey’ McKevitt became a popular and trusted Provisional IRA leader, dubbed “another Michael Collins” by one volunteer. He married Bernadette Sands, sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands, also a prominent figure in the Republican movement.

At some point in the 1980s McKevitt became the Provisional IRA’s quartermaster general. In this position he was responsible for collecting, storing, deploying and accounting for weapons and munitions. A man of impatience and radical views, McKevitt objected to Sinn Fein’s involvement in the peace process. Frustrated by the imminent peace deal, McKevitt formed the Real IRA in October 1997. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, a political group aligned with the Real IRA, was founded by his wife around the same time. Under Mickey McKevitt’s leadership the Real IRA formed an alliance with the Continuity IRA, another radical Provisional IRA splinter group. Together they orchestrated the August 1998 car bombing of downtown Omagh, an incident that claimed 29 lives. McKee also plotted the assassination of British prime minister Tony Blair, though this was never attempted.

The Omagh bombing triggered outrage and brought condemnation for McKevitt and the Real IRA. He lost control of the group and his membership was revoked. In 2001 McKevitt was arrested for terrorist offences in the Republic of Ireland. In August 2003 he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Bernadette Sands McKevitt withdrew from political life, choosing instead to campaign for her husband’s release.

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