Remains believed to belong to Mayo man Finbar Cafferkey recovered in Ukraine

It may be months before the remains can be returned to Ireland, family told

Remains believed to be those of Finbar Cafferkey, the Irish man killed fighting in Ukraine in April, have been recovered.

However, the Cafferkey family have been told it may be months before they can be repatriated to Ireland due to the large number of human remains which have to be processed.

Mr Cafferkey, from Co Mayo, died fighting with Ukrainian forces to keep a vital supply route open to the city of Bakhmut in the east of the country. For months the city was the location of some of the war’s fiercest fighting until it finally fell to the invading Russian forces in May.

Mr Cafferkey (45) was killed in a Russian mortar strike along with two other foreign fighters, US Marine veteran Cooper Andrews (26), from Ohio, and Russian anarchist Dmitriy Petrov.


The men had been fighting with the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine.

More than 40 troops fighting for the Ukrainian side were killed in the same engagement that day and continued fighting led to long delays to recovering remains.

The remains of Mr Cafferkey and his comrades have now been recovered and are being kept in a refrigerated unit in a military base in Ukraine. DNA and other tests will be conducted to formally identify them before they are released back to the family who live in Achill, Co Mayo.

Mr Cafferkey’s remains are being held alongside the bodies of a large number of other fighters awaiting the same process and repatriation is not expected for about three months or possibly longer.

Well over 350,000 troops have been killed or wounded in the war since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This includes more than about 300 foreign fighters and three Irish men.

The Mayo man, who previously fought with the Kurdish YPG in Syria against the Islamic State and was active in the Shell to Sea campaign, was initially classed as missing in action before his death was confirmed.

“We’ll bring him home, le cúnamh Dé,” Mr Cafferkey’s father, Tom, told a memorial service on Achill Island in May.

Among the hundreds who attended was a group of about 40 Ukrainians, now living in Westport. They carried a large wreath which proclaimed: “To our hero, Finbar Cafferkey. From all Ukrainians.”

Finbar’s mother, Celine, spoke of his passion for the many and varied activities in which he was involved. “His actions were propelled by things he felt deeply in his heart,” Ms Cafferkey said. “If he felt the truth of something, he followed his heart.

Mr Cafferkey and his two international comrades worked with various left-wing or anarchist groups supporting the Ukrainian war effort.

In the year before his death he worked with several groups in Poland and Ukraine that delivered aid and supplies to the front lines. He signed up with a combat unit shortly before his death.

He initially worked with an anarchist group based in Poland called ACK Galicia, ferrying vehicles and aid to Ukraine. He also worked with XVX Tacticaid, which refurbishes off-road vehicles for use in the war; Operation Solidarity, which gathered and distributed aid; and a group called Help War Victims.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times