By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The search for the bodies of victims murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in the 1970s and ’80s may resume as a result of new information about the secret grave sites, a spokesman for the victim’s families said last week.
Seamus McKendry, son-in-law of mother of 10 Jean McConville, who was abducted in Belfast in 1972, said the families had been assured that Provisional IRA members had returned to the sites to try to pinpoint the graves.
"We called publicly, when the digs were suspended, for the Provisionals to return to the sites to clarify exactly where the remains are supposed to lie," McKendry told Irish radio. "We are assured at the moment that they have done that but the extent of the information they have or have given we are not sure of.
"Hopefully, some of the information will be specific to enough to enable a dig to commence almost immediately."
The IRA admitted earlier this year that it killed and secretly buried nine people. It claimed the victims were informers, collaborators or had stolen arms.
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They provided the location of six grave sites, but only after its members were promised immunity over the cases. After two months of digging by gardai, only three bodies were recovered and the operation was suspended at five sites in July.
The joint commission established by the British and Irish governments to coordinate the search said "further firm and reliable information" would be required to justify continuing excavations.
McKendry, whose mother-in-law vanished after cradling a wounded British soldier in her arms, said the family planned to have discussions with the Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains in the near future about a resumption of the searches. McConville is believed to be buried on a beachside site in County Louth.
"You have got to remain optimistic," McKendry said. "The last thing we want is to return to County Louth for another couple of months standing about waiting every day, hoping it will be that day.
"It was a horrendous time. It was absolute hell as it has been for 20 odd years now."
The remains of two victims John McClory, 17, and Brian McKinney, 23, were buried in early August after they were handed over to the families following DNA identification.
They disappeared from Belfast in 1978 and were found in a bog in County Monaghan.