Category: Archive

Editorial Politics of the disappeared

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

As people in the North, in Britain and in the U.S. were enjoying the long holiday weekend, a grim search was under way in the Irish Republic. The Irish police were trying to unearth the remains of eight victims of IRA "justice," who were murdered and secretly buried, between 1972 and 1978. The search began following information that came from the republican movement and was given to the authorities by two priests acting as intermediaries. This ghoulish process has had so far only one "success" — when the body of one of the victims, Eamonn Molloy, who was from Belfast, was found in a coffin in a cemetery in County Louth. The coffin, according to reports, was new, and decorated with rosary beads.

The fate of these people, who include Jean McConville, a mother of nine, is one of the most tragic and shocking of any in the long list of the victims of the North’s decades of sectarian and political murder. They died horrible and anonymous deaths, after being held and "questioned," sometimes for weeks, by their captors.

Part of their tragedy is that they were never on that list of victims, now well over 3,000 long — and until all their bodies are recovered, they will not be on it. They simply disappeared without trace, usually without any message or hint to their anxious loved ones as to their fate.

For year after year, mothers, fathers, wives, children, lived haunted by what may have happened to them. Frequently, to the shame of those involved, the relatives of the disappeared were deliberately misled. Mrs. McConville’s family was told that she had run away with a British soldier. The mother of another of the victims was informed that her son had gone to England and would return some day. This is sheer cruelty and has appalled the vast majority of Irish people, north and south of the border.

It has come at a particularly embarrassing time for Sinn Fein, which is running candidates for the European parliament and trying to present its new, respectable image. The continuing search will remind voters of the bad old days of the Troubles, when paramilitary gangs terrorized whole neighborhoods, and ordinary human decency was often trampled into the ground by thugs from all sides, loyalist as well as republican, official as well as unofficial. Sinn Fein is anxiously trying to distance itself from the more ghastly aspects of that period, especially the early 1970s. No wonder.

However, the move has to be welcomed for two main reasons. The first, most obvious one is that it will bring to an end the long uncertainty of the victims’ relatives. Secondly, it can be read as a signal from the IRA that the war is truly over.

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

Literally, as well as figuratively, it is time to take the skeletons out of the closets. And that applies not only to Sinn Fein and the IRA but to all the other forces, police and army as well as paramilitary, who have soiled their hands with the blood of innocent people.

The ghastly spectacle of weeping relatives standing around bleak sites on remote beaches or boglands watching earth removers and men with spades and shovels digging for what’s left of a mother, or a son or a father will probably not win Sinn Fein many votes. But it must never be forgotten. It is a frightening image of the inhumanity of war.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese