Gardaí this afternoon confirmed that a body found on a beach near Carlingford in Co Louth in August was that of Mrs Jean McConville who was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1972.
It was announced this afternoon that DNA tests proved that the remains, which were discovered accidentally by passers by in area known as Shelling Hill near Carlingford were those of the Belfast woman.
Mother-of-ten Mrs McConville (37) was abducted in the city by a 12-strong gang three weeks before Christmas 1972.
The 'crime' of the Protestant woman married to a Catholic was alleged to have been to tend a dying solider wounded in an IRA attack outside her home at Divis Flats in west Belfast.
Searches have been carried out in the area for Mrs McConville's body since 1999.
In a statement released this evening, the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern said today's confirmation brought to an end "a time of terrible uncertainty for the McConville family" and expressed his hope that it would "help the healing process for the family, who have endured so much pain through the loss of their mother.
On my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to the McConville family at this sad time," he said.
The Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, called on the IRA to renew its co-operation with the authorities in order that the bodies of the other 'disappeared' victims can be located and returned to their families for burial.
He said today's news 'would come as a huge relief to the McConville family, who had suffered the loss of their mother for over 30 years.
"Their grief during this time has been greatly worsened by the failure of the IRA to return their mother's body," he said.
The SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan has expressed his sympathy to the family of Mrs McConville this afternoon.
"Very few of us can imagine what they have been through and all of us will hope that this will help their grieving process," he said. "The abduction and disappearing of people was one of the worst human rights abuses in our history. Let us remember today the families of all those whose loved ones have still not been found.
"I am calling on the IRA to re-double their efforts to bring the suffering of all those families to an end."