Last year the executive and judicial branches of the state, despite the much vaunted separation of powers, acted in unison when they both went to considerable lengths to ensure the imprisoned republican Michael McKevitt would be denied the same chance of early release that others had availed of. There was a clear sense at the time that this had nothing to do with justice and was firmly rooted in state apparatuses determined to exact a pound of flesh from McKevitt over his decision to disregard the Good Friday Agreement and to persist with his brand of republicanism with its fidelity to the type of armed campaigning that had breathed life into the 26 country state, now officially called the Republic of Ireland.
There has long been media linkage between McKevitt and the 1998 bombing of Omagh which resulted in numerous civilian deaths. That the event was an outrage is not in doubt. Yet the outrage of many in officialdom erupts not in response to who was bombed but to who did the bombing. It is an outrage often more stated than felt: had Israel and not the Real IRA bombed Omagh a lot of coughing and spluttering would have emitted from the lips of the great and the good but no condemnation. Some of the most vociferous critics of the Omagh bomb are suddenly struck dumb by a biblical type infliction when God’s chosen people decide to make what happened at Omagh look like child's play while they bomb from the safety of the skies children at play in Gaza.
For Omagh, McKevitt has been made to pay nonetheless. Stitched up by Dave Rupert as a means of committing him to prison, a raft of underhand measures have since come into play in order to ensure he stays there for as long as he has life in his body.
In March of this year he was allowed home having been diagnosed with cancer.
He was granted long-term temporary release, comprised of rolling one-week periods that were extended without interruption. His family said he spent the time at home in Beech Park, Blackrock, with no conditions attached to his release and no security measures put in place.
Then out of the blue the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald had him banged up again. Seriously what other than to make a vindictive point was the point?
Five TDs have registered their “deep concern” for Michael McKevitt: - Éamon Ó Cuív, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Maureen O’Sullivan and Thomas Pringle. Disappointing but not surprising is that the 14 TDs of Sinn Fein did not lend their voice to the five's call for his immediate release. The party’s symbiotic relationship with the Provisional IRA from the days when both Gerry Adams and Michael McKevitt were senior members should count for something but seemingly not.
Michael McKevitt should be released immediately and allowed home. He has served the vast bulk of his sentence. What the state can squeeze out of him for political purposes by continuing to imprison him is marginal given the proximity of his estimated release date. The humanitarian succour his wife and children can extract from his presence at home is immense.
Frances Fitzgerald has only one a choice to make: to opt for compassion or for
cruelty. Does the notion of a Just Society have any resonance within Fine Gael these days or is the spectre of Cooney too strong?