Mourners at the funeral of Archie McConville have been told of his “ardent hope” that those with information about the North’s “Disappeared” “will come forward to end these families’ pain and suffering”.
Paying tribute to Mr McConville, Sandra Peake, chief executive of Belfast-based WAVE Trauma Centre, which supports the families of the Disappeared, said he had played a "crucial" role in forging an "unbreakable collective bond" between them.
Mr McConville was the second son of Jean McConville, the widowed mother of 10 who was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1972. Her remains were recovered from a beach in Co Louth in 2003.
Sixteen years old when the IRA took his mother, Archie was initially told he could go with her. But as soon as they were outside the family flat in Divis Tower in Belfast a gun was put to his head and his mother was forced to go alone.
He died on Thursday aged 65 after a short illness. His funeral took place at St Luke’s Church, Twinbrook, on Monday.
Speaking after Mr McConville’s death was announced, Ms Peake said that like other members of the McConville family, he had had to “live with the most profound trauma imaginable.
“For Archie the thought that he was the last member of the family to see their mother alive and the realisation that there was nothing he could do to prevent her being taken away was the source of a particular grief and pain that was with him every hour of his life from then on.
“Those who took Jean McConville that terrible day laid waste to an entire family,” she said.
The "Disappeared" refers to 16 people abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles. The remains of all but three of the victims – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac – have since been recovered.
Lisa Dorrian, who went missing in 2005 is also believed to have been murdered. Her remains have not yet been found.
Mr McConville was an active member of the Families of the Disappeared group at WAVE Trauma Centre.
Paying tribute to Mr McConville at his funeral, Ms Peake described him as “a gentleman, he was immensely kind, he was the peacemaker, he loved a bit of craic, and he loved his family more than anything.
Describing his "support and dedication" to other families, she recounted memories of "Archie standing in a bog in Co Meath which was due to be searched for the remains of Brendan Megraw, or at funeral Masses in Crossmaglen, and at Masses for Columba McVeigh in Carrickroe, Co Monaghan.
“Archie never missed an opportunity to come together with the other families and when he spoke it was with a passion and understanding that only someone who had been through his and their experience could properly express.
“It is hard to overestimate the importance of that mutual strength and support especially for those families who have yet to see their loved ones returned,” she said.
Ms Peake also read tributes from other families of the Disappeared, including Dympna Kerr, the sister of Columba McVeigh, and Joe Lynskey's niece Maria.
"He and [his wife] Liz were always there, and his presence meant a great deal to me because I knew he was there for all of us as we continue to search for our loved ones," said Ms Lynskey.
The lead investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR), Geoff Knupfer, also paid tribute to Mr McConville, and said everyone at the ICLVR had been saddened to learn of his death.
Mr McConville is survived by his wife Liz and four children, as well as other members of the McConville family.