Category: Archive

Commission urges new searches for IRA bodies

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A resumption of searches for the remains of the so-called "Disappeared" — victims murdered and buried in the Republic by the IRA — has been ordered by an Anglo-Irish commission set up to help find the bodies.

The move follows "sufficient additional information" being supplied by the IRA about the secret burial grounds, according to a joint statement from former Tanaiste John Wilson and Sit Kenneth Bloomfield, Commissioners for the Location of Victims Remains.

No date has been set for the new searches in the boggy, beachside and mountainous locations involved. It is expected that some searches will resume by the end of April if ground conditions allow machinery to be moved onto the sites.

"The time for the resumption of the searches will depend on the physical state of the various sites, which, in turn, will depend on the weather," the statement said.

Wilson said the renewed searches would be the final attempt to find the remains of the six bodies still missing. He said new information had been provided for all of the six still missing.

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Wilson is satisfied with the bona fides of the people supplying the information. The lack of progress had resulted from the lapse of time and the "loss of personnel" since the people were buried.

The spokesman for the group Families of the Disappeared, Seamus McKendry, welcomed the new searches but said relatives approached them with a mixture of hope and dread.

McKendry is a son-in-law of Belfast widow Jean McConville, who was abducted in front of her 10 young children in 1972. Her family held vigil for 50 days at Templetown Beach in County Louth while gardai dug up the whole beachside parking lot.

After over seven weeks of digging by Gardai at sites in Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Wicklow, the searches were "paused" last July.

Before the searches were called off, some of the digs covered areas as large as a football pitch and tons of earth, turf and sand were excavated.

Of nine missing people involved, one body was handed over by the IRA and two others were found buried in bogland at Clogagh, Co. Monaghan. No other remains were found.

The Commission met the relatives of the victims at a hotel in Dundalk last month and emphasized to them that they did not want to raise false hopes.

Commission sources disclosed that there had been a response to a major set of queries since Christmas. There has been ongoing contact with the IRA through intermediaries.

The Commission provided a questionnaire to the IRA seeking more accurate and detailed information and clarifying existing details already provided.

Garda Commissioner Patrick Byrne is in discussions with the Commission about the timing of the new searches and the extent of them.

The Commission was set up last May as part of the Northern Ireland peace agreement to find the remains of the victims who were murdered between 1972 and 1981.

Before the searches began, legislation was passed in the Dail and Westminster granting immunity from prosecution to those involved in the murders in respect of any evidence gathered during the recovery process.

The IRA claimed the victims were informers or had stolen arms. Relatives of the dead strongly disputed the allegations.

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