McKevitt granted leave to challenge his detention (RTè)

Michael McKevitt (pictured in 2008) will launch another challenge to his detention
Convicted IRA leader Michael McKevitt has been granted leave by the High Court to bring another legal challenge to his detention.

Earlier today McKevitt lost his legal challenge against a decision of the Minister for Justice refusing to release him under a scheme of enhanced remission of sentence.

In accordance with a recent Supreme Court decision, Mr Justice Bernard Barton ruled his detention was lawful and could not be challenged using Article 40 of the Constitution.

However McKevitt will now use another legal mechanism, judicial review, to contest his continued detention.

Earlier today lawyers for McKevitt told the court they were withdrawing the challenge taken under Article 40 in light of the Supreme Court decision.

However Mr Justice Bernard Barton said he would still give his judgment in the case because of the “public importance and public interest” of the case.

McKevitt, 59, from Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, had sought an Article 40 inquiry under the Constitution claiming his continued detention at Portlaoise Prison is unlawful.

However the application was overtaken by a decision of the Supreme Court which ruled an Article 40 inquiry was the incorrect legal mechanism for such challenges.

McKevitt now has permission to bring a judicial review of the Minister’s decision not to grant him remission of sentence. That case may be heard in October.

Lawyers for McKevitt told the High Court it was possible he was still illegally detained and therefore they are requesting a priority hearing.

However lawyers for the State argued there was now “no great urgency” about the hearing as it was not being taken under Article 40.

McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism and membership of the Real IRA.

He claimed he was entitled to one third remission of his sentence for good behaviour and participation in activities designed to prepare him for release.

The court heard the activities included work while in prison along with a number of courses including French, creative writing, yoga, home economics and web design.

He also achieved academic qualifications in computing, literacy, French, and digital imagery, while he also studied creative writing with the Open University.

His teachers described him as “dependable, reliable, hard working, honest and courteous”.

His lawyers claimed that if proper consideration for a one third enhanced remission had been given he would already have been released by now.

However the State had argued that McKevitt had shown no remorse for his crime, was refusing to disassociate himself with an illegal organisation and saw himself as a “political hostage”.

They argued that the Minister was entitled to take these matters into account when making her decision on remission.

Judge Barton had adjourned ruling on the matter pending the decision of the Supreme Court in a case brought by Limerick man Eddie Ryan, where a similar legal argument had been made.

Last month Ryan was released from prison after Mr Justice Max Barrett found that under Rule 59 of the 2007 Prison Rules Ryan, imprisoned for possession of a pistol and ammunition, was entitled to release.

However the Supreme Court ruled Ryan’s release by the High Court was invalid and ordered his re-arrest.

The Supreme Court held his release by way of habeas corpus under Article 40 of the Constitution was not the appropriate remedy on the issue of remission of prison sentence.

It agreed with the State, which had appealed the Ryan High Court ruling, that Ryan’s application for early release should have been brought by way of judicial review.


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