‘The Disappeared’: search for closure goes on

Archbishop Eamon Martin appeals for those with information to come forward

 

Burial of the dead with appropriate ceremony has been a core component of civilised behaviour for thousands of years. That is why the abduction, murder and secret burial of Provisional IRA victims during the ‘Troubles’ was such an ugly secret. Denial of involvement was the routine response but, in 1999, the Provisional IRA admitted to nine such killings and to furtive burials. Seventeen cases were referred to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains and 13 bodies have been recovered. Three outstanding cases involved the Provisional IRA. The INLA was implicated in a fourth.

Failure to resolve those cases and bring an element of closure to the relatives of victims prompted the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin to appeal for those with information to come forward at a special Mass for the families in Armagh at the weekend. There were, he offered, trustworthy individuals in society and in the churches who would be willing to accept and to sensitively share such information.

In a sermon that contrasted with some of the bland commentary that followed the death of Martin McGuinness, Archbishop Martin spoke of the 1970s as “those awful, terrible times” when shocking and horrific things happened; of individuals who had pulled the trigger, planted the bomb, blindly followed orders or had given the command for death or punishment, or who had kept watch, spread fear, destroyed evidence and intimidated witnesses. Those people – in Ireland and abroad – carried secrets, he said, and they had the power to end the agonising wait of families and to allow their loved ones to have a Christian burial.

In the past, Sinn Féin asked individuals to come forward with information and co-operate with the independent commission. It was not enough because some former IRA members appear unwilling to give up their ‘secrets’. While that situation persists, Sinn Féin – as standard-bearer for the republican movement – will struggle to distance itself from past outrages and present itself as a full-fledged democratic party.

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