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19th June 2003
The trial of Michael McKevitt on charges linked to the Omagh car bomb in Northern Ireland in August 1999 has again raised questions on how much the security services knew of the planned attrocity and the role of planted agents. It has been claimed as far back as 2001 a double agent had forewarned the police two days prior to the bombing and alleged that the Catholic splinter group, the Real IRA, was involved. The prosecutor at the Special Criminal Court trial that commenced on 18 June 2003 has stated that a key witness in the trail, US-born David Rupert, was paid £700,000 to infiltrate dissident Republican groups (Financial Times, 19 June 2003).
Bizarrely, the Northern Ireland police Chief Constable at the time of the bombing, Sir Ronnie Flannigan, declared that he would commit suicide if the allegations of a slip-up were proven. Proceedings against suspects within the Real IRA is likely to have been delayed to protect agents. Documents have been withheld from the defence team "on the grounds it could endanger the lives of British secret service agents in Ireland" (The Guardian, 9 October 2002).
David Rupert was able to gain the confidence of McKevitt even though his background could not have been more different: an American Protestant of German and Mohican ancestry. In the late 1990s Rupert moved to Ireland where, with FBI aid, he leased a pub and a caravan park near a beauty spot in Tullallen, Co Leitrim. He later abandoned the pub, which burnt down in mysterious circumstances. After befriending McKevitt, Rupert helped by purchasing encryption software and other computing equipment. Documents disclosed in the McKevitt case show Rupert was under investigation in New York state over claims that he was involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking along the Canadian border. Such possibilities - and in this particular instance personal difficulties were compounded with large unpaid tax bills relating to a trucking business - make individuals vulnerable to deals on offer and results in them offering their services.
Ulster police dismiss Omagh bomb findings
Relatives of Real IRA boss plan to sue US informer