Who's Who among the Dissident Republicans
Michael McKevitt and his partner, Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, have been the people most prominently identified with the Real IRA. Both have adamantly denied any involvement in the Real IRA and there is no evidence suggesting that they had any involvement in the Omagh bombing.
Michael McKevitt and Bernadette Sands-McKevitt have said they are instituting legal action against several media organisations because of the suggestion of their complicity with the Omagh bomb and also because of the identification of Michael McKevitt as the former IRA quarter-master who has been the key figure in the establishment of the Real IRA.
It was during the 1980s, when McKevitt was suspected of being a member of the IRA Executive, that the Provisional IRA imported the vast bulk of its arsenal. Some 134 tonnes of weapons and explosives were smuggled into Ireland from Libya in four separate shipments between 1985 and 1986. The fifth shipment, on board the Eksund, was seized in October 1987.
In 1988, McKevitt was arrested in Co Monaghan, along with leading republican, Patrick ‘Slab' Murphy, on suspicion of IRA membership. Both were released without charge. McKevitt has no convictions for membership or any other paramilitary offence. Anti-terrorist branches of the Gardai and the RUC have extensive files on McKevitt but have no evidence on which to bring charges.
In 1975, Michael McKevitt was shot in both knees in Northern Ireland by members of the Official IRA, but he refused to co-operate with the police investigation. A staunch republican, he was intensely against Sinn Féin signing up to the Mitchell Principles and was opposed to the 1994 and 1997 IRA cease-fires and the Stormont Agree-ment.
Michael McKevitt (50) was born and reared in McSwiney Street, Dundalk, where his elderly mother still lives. He worked for a time in the Dundalk electronics firm, Ecco. In 1971 he married a local woman but she and her unborn baby were killed in a traffic accident shortly afterwards. McKevitt then married Bernadette Farrelly and the couple had a son and daughter but the marriage ended in separation.
Those who know him, both gardai and close associates, describe him as a “quiet, country type of man.” A source who spent some time with the McKevitts around six years ago, said McKevitt was not a great talker. “Bernadette would do most of the talking. For much of the time he would sit in the chair with his shirt buttoned down. He was very courteous. He struck me as a typical country husband,” he said.
Security sources regard him as a “good strategist” but say he lacks the political guile and intellectual abilities of other prominent republicans.
Until August 21, McKevitt ran a business in Dundalk, Print Junction, with his partner, Bernadette Sands-McKevitt and drives a black 1997 BMW. Sands-McKevitt is the mother of three of his five children and vice chairwoman of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee. The couple has lived quietly for more than 15 years at Blackrock, Co Louth.
Leading Cork republican, Michael Burke, has emerged as the main organiser behind the recruiting drive for the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, the political organisation founded by republicans opposed to the Stormont Agreement. In the mid-1980s, Burke was one of an IRA gang who posed as a garda, during the IRA kidnapping of Don Tidey. He was convicted of false imprisonment on June 26, 1986 and sentenced to 12 years in jail. He was questioned about the 1985 murder of IRA informer John Corcoran. Burke later disagreed with the republican leadership over the peace strategy. He was released from Portlaoise prison in 1994 and subsequently cut his ties with his former comrades.
42-year-old Burke from Ardcullen, Hollyfield in Cork, is unemployed and married with three adult children. He devotes much of his time to the 32 County Sovereignty Committee. As one of the key political figures he travels around the country trying to organising support for the Committee.
Ciaran ‘Kiwi' Dwyer
Ex IRA man Ciaran ‘Kiwi' Dwyer is another important figure in the Sovereignty Committee. Dwyer (43) of Castletroy View outside Limerick City, was formerly in the Provisionals' quartermasters department where he acted as a regional quartermaster in Limerick/Tipperary area.
In 1990, Dwyer was caught with a vanload of ammunition near Southhill in Limerick. The haul included seven AK rifles, 30,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition, assorted ammunition and 10 pounds of Semtex explosives. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment—a sentence later reduced to 10 years on appeal. He was given early release on July 29, 1995 following the first IRA cease-fire. He was convicted previously in 1977 for membership of the IRA and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment in 1973 for unlawful collection and also in 1970 for a petty criminal offence.
A father of three, Dwyer is one of the four leading figures behind the Sovereignty Committee in Munster and has been influential in recruiting members into the political organisation.
Dwyer spoke to Magill at his semi-detached home on Saturday August 22, and said, “I'm saying nothing—go away,” as he swiftly closed the door.
(Cannot be identified for legal reasons)
A former IRA man from Tipperary, now living in Cork, was among the first to break away from the Provisionals, following an acrimonious Army convention in Gweedore last October. Originally a member of the quartermaster's department of the provisional IRA, the 39-year-old is now one of the leading military activists in the ‘Real IRA'. His ‘responsibilities' are similar to those he had in the Provisionals; to guard whatever weapons and supplies the organisation is currently in possession of, or may acquire in the future. The former Provo was previously employed in the forestry industry. He has no paramilitary convictions. He was charged in the Special Criminal Court with assault, but the charge was later dropped. He is originally from Co Tipperary and now lives in Fermoy. He runs a small farm
The Engineer, Inchicore, Dublin (Cannot be identified for legal reasons)
In February last, one of the country's top bomb makers defected to the Real IRA. It was to be their most valuable recruit to date. Not only did he bring with him a number of others from the Provisionals' engineering department, but more crucially, he brought the bomb-making expertise vital to an emerging paramilitary force. Along with another prominent dissident, he is one of the few IRA paramilitaries with knowledge of the locations of the Provisionals arms dumps.
From Inchicore in west Dublin, he was arrested several times over the past 10 years, but was released without charge on each occasion because of lack of evidence. In his early thirties, the dissident republican is described by security sources as a clean cut, attractive, athletic type who drives a high-powered motorbike. In August 1997, the paramilitary was listed on the IRA's General Headquarters Staff (GHQ) as head of the Provisionals engineering department