Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt denies involvement in Omagh bombing as he is released from prison

Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt denies involvement in Omagh bombing as he is released from prison

A FORMER leader of the Real IRA, who was found responsible in civil court for the 1998 Omagh bombing, has been released from prison.

Michael McKevitt, 65, was jailed for 20 years in 2003 in a separate case for directing terrorism.

He was released on Easter Sunday after his sentence, being served at Portlaoise Prison, officially expired.

In a statement to The Irish Times newspaper, McKevitt categorically denied any involvement in the Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people on August 15, 1998.

“Firstly, let me state categorically, that I had no involvement in the bombing whatsoever,” he said.

“I was stitched-up from the outset. I have no doubt that both the Irish and British authorities and others, including some within media circles are aware of this fact also.”

McKevitt was jailed in 2003 for 20 years for directing terrorism following a sitting of the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

In 2009, the Belfast High Court found him civilly liable for the Omagh bombing along side three other men Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly.

Murphy was the first person to be convicted in connection with the Omagh tragedy and was jailed for 14 years in 2002 for conspiring to cause the explosion.

His conviction was successfully appealed in 2005 and in 2010 he was cleared of all criminal charges at a retrial.

The Omagh bombing,  which claimed the lives of 29 people including a young woman pregnant with twins, came just months after the Good Friday Agreement had been signed in Belfast in April 1998.

It brought an official end to the Troubles in the North of Ireland.

McKevitt founded the Real IRA in 1997 after leaving the Provisional IRA over his opposition to the peace process in the North of Ireland.

He has always maintained his innocence over the Omagh bombing, which was officially attributed to the Real IRA by the PSNI.

“Within days of the bombing, I said that I had no hand, act or part in the bombing and that remains my position,” McKevitt said in his statement.

“In my opinion, Omagh is up there with some of the worst tragedies of the conflict - on a scale with the Dundalk/Monaghan/Dublin bombings, Bloody Sunday and the Ballymurphy massacre.”

McKevitt is suffering from cancer and last year was temporarily released from Portlaoise Prison to receive treatment.

He later returned to the prison but was at home in Co. Louth on temporary release on Easter Sunday, when his sentence officially expired.