SEARCH FOR THE DISAPPEARED

Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at the Mass in Carrickroe    Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at a Mass in Carrickroe, Emyvale, County Monaghan, at which a new appeal was made for information about the location of Columba McVeigh’s remains Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed the Irish government will continue its commitment to help fund the search for the so-called ‘disappeared’. Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish and British Governments set up the Independent Commission for the Recovery of Victims Remains. Its aim was to locate the remains of those killed by republican paramilitaries and secretly buried during the ‘troubles’ – people commonly referred to as the ‘disappeared’.

RTÉ’s Northern Editor Tommie Gorman in a special Nationwide programme tonight reported on the ongoing work of the Commission, with the remains of six people still to be recovered.

The Commission has a confidential telephone number and post box, and the information it receives can only be used to help recover the dead. In many of the ten cases where remains have been found, republicans and/or others used these facilities to provide crucial information.

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality  Photo: Fine Gael

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality Photo: Fine Gael

With a search for one of the six still missing, Belfast-born Joe Lynskey, due to begin in County Meath this month, the Minister for Justice has confirmed the Irish government’s ongoing commitment to help fund the work. Frances Fitzgerald said the government remained as strongly committed now to the humanitarian aim of locating the victims for their families as at the outset of the process, and would continue to support the ongoing efforts to locate those victims who have yet to be found. The Minister said she would encourage anyone with information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information, in full confidence, to the ICLVR without delay. “The families of the missing victims have suffered enough.  Out of common human decency, I appeal to anyone who can help bring an end to that suffering to do so”, she said.

Of the six people still missing, five are thought to be buried south of the Irish border and a sixth, Seamus Ruddy, is believed to be buried in a forest in France. The INLA admitted killing Seamus Ruddy.  The five other deaths are attributed to the IRA. The remaining ‘Disappeared’

In February 2010 Joe Lynskey was added to the official list of the disappeared. He was a member of the IRA. He went missing from his west Belfast home during the summer of 1972; his body has never been recovered. Joseph Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast. A new search for his remains is due to begin in Co Meath later this month.

Columba McVeigh  Photo: Irish Times

                                                                    Columba McVeigh Photo: Irish Times

Columba McVeigh disappeared on November 1st 1975 and his body has never been recovered. He was from Donaghmore, County Tyrone. He had been working as a painter in Dublin and had only returned to the North a few days earlier. Although extensive searches, based on information received, have been carried out at Bragan Bog near Emyvale in North Monaghan, his remains have not yet been discovered.

Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright disappeared on 2 October 1972. The two of them were from Belfast – Seamus Wright worked as an asphalt layer.  He was aged 25 and married when he went missing. It is thought they were both members of the IRA and were suspected of passing on information to the security forces. The Commission has carried out extensive but unsuccessful searches in the Coghalstown area of Co Meath for the remains of the men.

Captain Robert Nairac disappeared in 1977.  He was an officer with the British Army’s Grenadier Guards on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland when he went missing. It’s thought he was on an intelligence-gathering operation and was singing republican songs at a pub in Silverbridge, South Armagh, on the night of his abduction.  He was 29.  A man was convicted of his murder in 1977 and served a prison sentence. Captain Nairac received a posthumous George Cross.

Seamus Ruddy disappeared in Paris on 9 May 1985. A native of Newry, he had links to the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP.  He was involved in negotiations on behalf of INLA prisoners in the MAZE during the 1981 Hunger Strikes and helped to carry the coffin of hunger striker, Michael Devine, at his funeral in Derry.  In May 1985 he was working as an English teacher in Paris.  It is thought he got into a dispute with INLA members who were attempting to procure weapons in France. . In December 1995 the INLA admitted responsibility for his death. In February 1999 information emerged to suggest that his body was buried in Rouen, France, but despite searches having been carried out his remains have not yet been recovered.

It is believed that information provided by republicans and/or others assisted in eight of the ten cases where remains were recovered.  With Jean Mc Conville (2003) and Eugene Simons (1984), the discoveries were made by chance.

Brendan Megraw was 23-years-old when he was taken from his flat in Twinbrook, west Belfast by the IRA in April 1978.  His wife was expecting their first child at the time. His remains were recovered at Oristown Bog, near Kells in County Meath in autumn 2014.

Peter Wilson was 21 when he went missing in West Belfast in 1973.  Described as a vulnerable person with learning difficulties, his remains were located at Waterfoot beach in County Antrim in November 2010.

Gerard Evans from Crossmaglen in South Armagh was last seen hitch-hiking in County Monaghan in March 1979. In March 2008 his aunt received a map, claiming to identify the location of his remains.  They were eventually recovered from the site near Hackballscross in County Louth in October 2010.

Charlie Armstrong was a 54-year-old father of five who had no connections with paramilitary organisations.  He went missing one Sunday morning in 1981 when he left his Crossmaglen home to collect a neighbour to go to Mass.  His remains were located in a County Monaghan bog in 2010, 29 years after his abduction.

Danny McIlhone went missing from his West Belfast home in 1981.  His remains were found in the Wicklow mountains in November 2008 – two earier, unsuccessful searches were carried out in the area.

Jean McConville was a widowed mother of ten, she was taken from her Belfast flat by the IRA in 1972.  A man out walking on Shelling Beach near Carlingford in County Louth found her remains in August 2003.

Eamon Molloy was abducted from his home in North Belfast in 1975. His body was discovered in a coffin left in Faughart graveyard, close to the border, near Dundalk in 1999.

Brian McKinney was aged 22 when he went missing in Belfast in 1978. His remains were located in a Co Monaghan bog in 1999.

John McClory was aged 17 when he went missing with his friend, Brian McKinney in Belfast in 1978. Their remains were found in the same area of Co Monaghan bogland 21 years later.

Eugene Simons was a 26 year old who went missing form his home near Castlewellan in Co Down in January 1981.  His body was discovered by chance in May 1984 in a bog near Dundalk, Co Louth.

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