Michael McKevitt, the founder of the terrorist group behind the Omagh bomb atrocity, is likely to serve less than two more years in jail in a deal designed to cover up MI5's role in Ireland.
The Real IRA, the organisation McKevitt formed five years go, was responsible for carrying out the massacre in 1998, the single biggest loss of life in the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Relatives of those killed in the bombing condemned any deal last night and claimed it was in place to prevent 'dirt coming out about events surrounding the bombing'.
McKevitt had been facing up to 15 years in prison over charges of directing acts of terrorism. He has been held on remand for two years in the run-up to this week's trial. But The Observer has learned that the Irish authorities have decided instead to charge him just with membership of the Real IRA.
There is mounting concern within the Republic's Department of Justice and the Garda Siochana (Irish police) that a large-scale trial on directing acts of terrorism would expose MI5 involvement in the state.