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Real IRA figure loses bomb appeal

DUBLIN — The founder of the Real IRA paramilitary group, responsible for the deadliest bombing in Irish history, lost a bid Friday to have his 2003 conviction for ‘‘directing terror’’ overturned.

Lawyers for Michael ­McKevitt, who in 2003 became the first person in the Republic of Ireland to be convicted of the charge, had argued that the 63-year-old should be freed from prison immediately. They contended that the warrant used to search his home was illegal, and McKevitt was denied the right to a fair trial because he had fired his own lawyers midway through his original trial.

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But the three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin ruled that McKevitt’s complaint was ‘‘unarguable.’’ It was the third straight failed appeal by McKevitt.

McKevitt was the former quartermaster general of the dominant Provisional branch of the Irish Republican Army. That position meant he had ultimate responsibility for hiding and managing the illegal group’s arsenal of weaponry. When the Provisionals ceased fire in 1997 in support of peace talks, McKevitt led a breakaway movement that remained committed to violence. Irish media soon dubbed it the Real IRA.

The Real IRA opposed Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace settlement of 1998 with a series of car bombings. In August that year the group killed 29 people, mostly women and children, in Omagh when a car bomb detonated amid a crowd of shoppers, workers, and tourists.

The Real IRA faction officially merged last year with two other splinter groups.

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