The sister of Séamus Ruddy has spoken of her concern for the remaining three families of the Disappeared after remains, believed be those of the former senior member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), were found in a forest in France.
Mr Ruddy’s sister Anne Morgan also paid particular thanks to the person or persons who provided information that appears to have ensured this search was successful.
Mr Ruddy (33), a former member of the Irish National Liberation Army's political wing, the IRSP, was teaching in a private school in Paris in 1985 when he was killed in a dispute understood to have been related to INLA arms smuggling. This was the fourth search for the body of Mr Ruddy, the last taking place in 2008. This search began in the forest at Pont-de-l'Arche outside Rouen in northern France last Tuesday with the remains uncovered on Saturday.
As the search began last Tuesday, English forensic scientist Geoff Knupfer of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) said he and his colleagues were satisfied the information they were now working from was "as accurate as it can be, given the passage of time".
As it took just five days to find the body it appears that this time the ICLVR was acting on much stronger information, probably provided by a former INLA member or members.
Ms Morgan had visited the search site last week and was on a train back from Rouen to Paris on Saturday and bound for Ireland when she got word of the discovery. It will take some time before the remains are formally identified but the ICLVR and the Ruddy family are confident it is the body of Séamus Ruddy.
“We just want to take Séamus home and give him a Christian burial with his parents Molly and John,” said Ms Morgan.
“We would like to thank the ICLVR and the forensic team. And we are very grateful to the French authorities for their role in facilitating the search,” she said. “We would especially like to thank those who gave the vital information which has helped to find him. We have waited a long time and prayed for the day that he could be given a Christian burial in Newry.”
Of the 17 Disappeared there are now three remaining bodies to be discovered: those of IRA victims, Columba McVeigh from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, who went missing in 1975; Joe Lynskey, who went missing from Belfast in 1972; and British soldier Capt Robert Nairac, who is believed to have been shot dead close to the Border in the Louth/south Armagh area in 1977.
The ICLVR dealt with 16 cases while the 17th of the Disappeared, who is not on the commission’s list, was Gareth O’Connor, who was murdered in 2003. His body was recovered in June 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth. His family blamed the IRA for his murder.
Ms Morgan urged anyone with information about the remaining Disappeared to bring it forward. “While we have received the news that we have longed for for so many years we are conscious there are others still waiting and our thoughts are also with the families of Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac,” she said.
The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, made a similar appeal: "I want to commend the commission and all of those involved in [Saturday's] discovery. Efforts must continue to recover the three remaining bodies. I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward," he said.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said she hoped that the finding of the remains would "move us ever closer to finalising the tragic search for all of the Disappeared".
Anyone with information on the Disappeared can contact the ICLVR in confidence on 00800 555 85500, by writing to ICLVR, PO Box 10827, Dublin 2 or via the website, iclvr.ie. The ICLVR was established by an intergovernmental agreement between the Irish and British governments in 1999.