22 March 2006

Prospect of new digs to locate IRA victims


(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

New digs could be mounted in a bid to locate the remains of the 'Disappeared'.

The commission tasked with finding the bodies of those abducted, killed and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries in the 1970s and 1980s is due to deliver a report to the Irish and British governments within days.

The dossier is based on a massive review of the cases, including further detail provided by the IRA to an English forensic expert drafted in as part of a fresh bid to achieve closure for families.

The investigative sciences consultant – who worked on the Moors Murders – has met relatives on a number of occasions since he took up his new role last year.

In 1999 the IRA admitted kidnapping, killing and secretly burying nine people, vowing to do all it could to locate their remains.

Seven years on and despite a number of excavations, five bodies have not been found.

A spokesman for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains confirmed last night (Monday) that its report containing new detail would be delivered to both governments.

"He [the forensic expert] has been in direct contact with IRA sources. This [the report] is one phase, reviewing what has gone but recommends what happens next.

"It could eventually lead to further digs. Recommendations have been made. It is up to the two governments to decide what happens next."

The expert has met IRA sources several times since last year to "clarify matters".

Three of the Disappeared victims were found following information passed via the IRA to the commission.

Legislation drawn up by both governments gives the killers immunity from prosecution.

The first body to be discovered was that of north Belfast republican Eamon Molloy, an alleged IRA informer who vanished in 1975. His remains were found in May 1999 in a Co Louth cemetery.

Five weeks later the bodies of west Belfast men John McClory and Brian McKinney, abducted in 1978, were found in bogland in Co Monaghan following a search.

In 2003 a 30-year search for west Belfast mother Jean McConville, who was kidnapped in 1972, finally ended when her remains were spotted by a passer-by on Templeton Beach, Co Louth.

Those on the IRA's list who are still missing are: west Belfast men Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, who were abducted in 1972; Co Tyrone man Columba McVeigh, who was kidnapped in 1975; Brendan Megraw, from west Belfast, who disappeared in 1978; and Danny McIlhone, also from west Belfast, who went missing in 1981.

However, further 'Disappeared' victims have also been attributed to the IRA.

They are Co Armagh man Charlie Armstrong, last seen alive in Crossmaglen in 1981 and Gerald Evans, last seen alive in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan in 1979.

Last Friday Mr Armstrong's family and that of former IRSP member Seamus Ruddy, who was killed and secretly buried by the INLA in France in 1985, met US president George Bush to highlight their plight.

As Mr Ruddy's murder happened in France, if his body is ever found, his killers will not be immune from prosecution.

The commission spokesman said the expert had been in contact with the IRSP.

"They indicated they might be in a position to review what happened," he said.

March 22, 2006

This article appeared first in the March 21, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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