Funeral of Jean McConville’s son Billy takes place in west Belfast

Officiating priest urges politicians to ensure victims of abuse are compensated

The coffin of Billy McConville, son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville, is taken from St Paul’s Parish Church, Belfast following his funeral service. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

The coffin of Billy McConville, son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville, is taken from St Paul’s Parish Church, Belfast following his funeral service. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

 

The findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry must be implemented immediately, a priest has urged at the funeral of Billy McConville in west Belfast on Wednesday.

Fr Patrick McCafferty told mourners at Mr McConville’s funeral Mass in St Paul’s Church on the Falls Road that all of society had an obligation to make reparation to those who were abused in church and state institutions.

Mr McConville (50), the son of Disappeared victim Jean McConville, died from cancer last Sunday in the Northern Ireland hospice. The funeral Mass for his mother was held in the same church in 2003.

As a six year-old he was taken into care along with his nine brothers and sisters after the IRA abducted, murdered and secretly buried Jean McConville in 1972. Her remains were discovered on a beach in Co Louth in 2003.

In 2014 Mr McConville told the HIA inquiry that he was sexually abused while in care by the notorious priest Fr Brendan Smyth. He said the priest was one of the “most devious people” he had ever encountered.

Mr McConville waived his right to anonymity at the time to also allege that he was sexually and physically abused by some De La Salle brothers and also physically abused by a lay teacher in Rubane House in Co Down.

The lay teacher in a statement read to the inquiry denied the allegations against him.

Mr McConville from Twinbrook in west Belfast said the IRA must also bear responsibility for the “nightmare” of abuse he suffered. He said that if “the IRA hadn’t killed our mother” he wouldn’t have ended up in care and subjected to abuse.

In January the report of the HIA inquiry called for a public apology and compensation payments to be made to children who suffered abuse in Northern Ireland church and state run institutions over a 73-year period up to 1995.

The inquiry chairman, retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart recommended compensation payments of up to £100,000 be paid to victims of abuse, with payments administered by a new body, the HIA Redress Board.

Shortly before he died Billy McConville called for politicians to resolve their differences over how the Northern Executive and Assembly can be restored so that victims can get some form of redress.

In his homily Fr McCafferty echoed that call. “Love and a passion for justice, led Billy to stand with other victims of institutional abuse and to raise his voice, along with theirs, against the evils perpetrated against them, demanding justice and redress,” he said.

“There are those with the power to implement the findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse public inquiry. They must do so, immediately, as a matter of urgency. All of society has an obligation, to make reparation to these sisters and brothers of ours, who were so deeply wounded during their tender years,” he added.

Fr McCafferty described Jean McConville’s murder as an “act of inexcusable wickedness” that “plunged Billy and his brothers and sisters in a lifelong nightmare of terror and trauma”.

Fr McCafferty also prayed that the bodies of the remaining members of the Disappeared - Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Captain Robert Nairac - and also of missing Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian be recovered.

The chief mourners were his four children Matthew, Aime, Craig and Nicole-Anne, and surviving eight siblings, Robert, Archie, Helen, Agnes, Michael, Tucker, Suzanne and his twin Jim. He is predeceased by his sister Anne.

Also among the mourners were Margaret McGuckin of Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), Alan McBride who lost his wife Sharon and father-in-law Desmond Frizzell in the 1993 IRA Shankill bombing, and members of the WAVE trauma centre including its chairwoman, Professor Jean Orr and spokesman Dennis Godfrey.