Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Families of the Disappeared

  Throughout the history of the troubles many individuals have been killed and many families and communities have struggled with the aftermath. One area which has been particularly difficult is the issue of the disappeared. Abducted, murdered and secretly buried, their families have struggled with the pain and trauma of bereavement in addition to the agony of not knowing where their loved one are buried and why and how they were taken. In addition the community has often been silent concerning these cases, with an underlying fear of the consequences of speaking out.

  There are 17 known cases of individuals who are suspected of having been murdered and secretly buried. Of these 17, nine were named by the IRA in the spring of 1999 as having been murdered by members of their organisation and their bodies hidden across a number of areas in the south. The INLA claimed one death that of Seamus Ruddy buried in a forest near Rouen in France. The remaining are unclaimed, however the families contend that given the circumstances and response following the disappearances, members of the Provisional IRA were responsible or at the very least can shed light on the fate of their loved ones.

  In May 1999 legislation was passed which facilitated information to be passed through an intermediary, this led to the identification of six burial sites. Extensive digs were conducted and in only one of the sites were the remains of Brain McKinney and John McClory found. For the rest there was inevitable disappointment that there would be no closure and expectations were dashed. A complete list of the disappeared including those found is included in Annex 1.

  There have been three other bodies recovered, Eugene Simons in 1984, Eamon Molloy in June 1999 and Jean McConville in August 2003.

  Given the circumstances of many of the cases, the families have been left isolated and vulnerable. It is only in recent years that they have begun to meet together. These relationships have been fostered through a yearly remembrance mass which is held on Palm Sunday in St Patrick's School, Armagh. Archbishop Brady in the main presides at this service which has brought immense comfort to those who continue to struggle with the pain and grief of loss in addition to the lack of knowledge of the final resting place of their loved one. In addition a series of meetings with political parties, Special Envoys and other special events has also facilitated the families to build connections to each other.

  There are a number of issues which are important for this group:

    1.  The current priority given to the disappeared. The families have seen periodic attention focused on the disappeared; however a central concern is the priority of this issue in political negotiations.

    2.  Current progress and role of the Commissions (ers) for the Disappeared. While these Bodies have received information, they have no role in developing or working on other ways to get information. Given the silence which still exists in some areas, other methods by which information can be obtained is required. The families would be keen for these Bodies to have a more proactive role.

    3.  Specialist equipment and searching methods from other counties going though similar processes are needed. At present the sites identified are in the south therefore this issue rests more with the southern authorities.

    4.  Documentation of sites—archiving of information concerning the areas excavated. Again this issue rests with the southern authorities, given the location of the sites.

    5.  The lack of death certificates for those deceased. The families who have loved ones still missing are unable to get death certificates and therefore their affairs remain open.

    6.  Contacts for the families in areas were their loved ones are reportedly located for example with the French Authorities.

    7.  Prevalent silence which still exists and the need for exploration into ways this can be broken.

Annex 1


  1972—Seamus Wright from West Belfast, disappeared with Kevin McKee on 2 October. Both men were allegedly kidnapped and taken to south Armagh where they are believed to have been murdered. Search conducted in Southern Ireland. Body not recovered.

  1972—Kevin McKee from West Belfast, disappeared with Seamus Wright. on 2 October. Both men were allegedly kidnapped and taken to south Armagh where they were believed to have been murdered. Search conducted in Southern Ireland. Body not recovered.

  1972—Jean McConville (37 yrs)—taken from her Divis home on 7 December and never seen again. Widowed mother of 10 children. Search conducted at Templetown Beach, Co Louth from May-July 1999. Body recovered 27 August 2003 at Shellinghill Beach, Co Louth.

  1974—John McIlroy from Andersonstown, Belfast disappeared on his way to work and has never been seen again. Location of body unknown.

  1974—Seamus Wright from Andersonstown, Belfast disappeared with John McIlroy and has never been seen again. Location of body unknown.

  1975—Eamon Molloy Disappeared on 1 July. Abducted and killed. Body located on 28 May 1999 in a coffin at the Old Faughart Graveyard four miles outside Dandily.

  1977—Columba McVeigh (17 yrs) from Dungannon was abducted and was reputedly murdered. Search conducted in Monaghan border area—body never recovered.

  1977—Robert Nairac disappeared from a south Armagh pub and was reputedly murdered and secretly buried. Location of body unknown.

  1978—Brendan Megraw, from Twinbrook, Belfast was kidnapped on 8 April from his home and has never been seen again. Search conducted in Navan area—body never recovered.

  1978—John McClory (18 yrs) was kidnapped on 25 May. Body found June 1999 along with Brian McKinney at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co Monaghan.

  1978—Brian McKinney (22 yrs) was taken from his work on 25 May. John McClory had been kidnapped an hour earlier. Both men were murdered. Body located June 1999 along with John McClory at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co Monaghan.

  1979—Gerard Evans from Crossmaglen disappeared on his way home on 27 March. He was last seen on the roadside outside Castleblaney trying to hitch a lift back home. Location of body unknown.

  1981—Eugene Simons disappeared from his Castlewellan home on 1 January when he went with "friends" to buy milk and potatoes. His body was recovered by accident three years later on 24 May 1984 in a bog in Dundallk.

  1981—Danny McIlhone disappeared from his West Belfast home during 1981. Little is known about his disappearance. Search conducted in Wicklow Hills near Blessingtown, Co Wicklow from May to July 1989. Body never recovered.

  1981—Charlie Armstrong disappeared on his way to Mass on 15 August. He has never been seen again. Search conducted in May 2002 at Iniskeen, Co Monaghan. Further searches have been conducted. Body not recovered.

  1985—Seamus Ruddy disappeared in Paris on 9 May. His body has never been recovered despite a limited search being conducted in 1999 at a forest near Rouen.

  2003—Gareth O'Connor disappeared on his way to Dundalk on 11 May. He has never been seen again.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 14 April 2005