Families of the Disappeared
Throughout the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland 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.
Please click here for the Families of the Disappeared website.
There have been 16 known cases of individuals who have been murdered and secretly buried. Please see below to access a full list of the Disappeared. Of these 16, ten individual’s bodies have been recovered:
- Eugene Simmons disappeared in January 1980. His body was discovered in 1984.
- Eamon Molloy disappeared in 1975. His body was discovered in July 1999.
- Brian McKinney disappeared in 1979. His body was recovered in June 1999.
- John McClory disappeared with Brian McKinney. His body was also recovered in June 1999.
- Jean McConville disappeared in December 1972. Her body was discovered in August 2003.
- Gareth O’Connor disappeared in May 2003. His body was recovered in June 2005.
- Danny McIlhone disappeared in 1981. His body was discovered in 2008.
- Charlie Armstrong disappeared in 1981. His body was found in County Monaghan in July 2010
- Gerard (Gerry) Evans disappeared on his way home to Crossmaglen. His body was recovered in October 2010.
- Peter Wilson disappeared in August 1973. His body was recovered in November 2010.
The earliest disappearance reported is that of Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright in October 1972, the latest is Gareth O’ Connor who disappeared in May 2003. Cases spanning over 31 years. In October 2009 a further case, that of Peter Wilson who disappeared in August 1973, came to prominence when it was officially included in the Independent Commission’s for Victims Remains (ICLVR) remit. Similarly,another case of Joe Lynskey (45 yrs) who disappeared in September 1972 is included as one the disappeared in the ICLVR.
It is believed that as of the 2nd November 2010, the remains of Peter Wilson have been found at Waterfoot, Co. Antrim.
Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains:
In May 1999 an Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) was established by Treaty between the British and Irish Governments. The purpose of the Commission is to obtain information, in strict confidence, which may lead to the location of the remains of "the Disappeared" (those killed and buried in secret by proscribed organisations prior to 10 April 1998 as a result of the Northern Ireland conflict).
The Commission is headed by:
- Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and Former Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner.
- Mr Frank Murray, former Secretary to the Government (Cabinet Secretary) and former Chairman of the Irish Public Appointments Service
The Families of the Disappeared:
Given the circumstances of many of the cases spanning in some cases over 30 years, the families have been left isolated and vulnerable. They began to meet together from 1997 onwards through WAVE. These relationships have been fostered through a yearly remembrance mass which is held on Palm Sunday officiated by Cardinal Sean Brady. This Mass 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. Each year on All Souls Day (2nd November) the families undertake a silent walk at Stormont to symbolise their ongoing plight. A black wreath which encompasses white lilies to symbolise those still missing is carried by a family member to the steps of Stormont. 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.
Work at Present:
In the summer of 2005 an independent forensic expert Geoff Knupfer was appointed by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR) to review the information which had been received in the past and to identify ways in which further information could be obtained. In response a help line number was released including a PO Box to which individuals could forward any information they might have. The details of this were released by local priests in parishes all over Ireland and the details included in parish bulletins. However the families and those concerned acknowledge that there is a need for further work to be undertaken to highlight the plight of the disappeared. It is proposed that this will be undertaken by a number of key events:
· Public Mass on Palm Sunday to highlight those still missing and to add a further plea for help to resolve the plight of the families concerned
· The launch of two websites which would highlight the number of the helpline and the PO Box and would give details of those still missing and what is known of their last movements.
· All Souls Day Silent Walk whichis undertaken at Stormont to remind Government that work needs to continue to locate their loved ones bodies.
· Appeals and Press coverage are undertaken as appropriate opportunities arise. A series of public appeals have been undertaken the most recent in 2008 and 2009 by James Nesbitt who has worked with the families.
Can You Help?
If you have any information which may lead to the location of the remains of any of the "Disappeared" please contact the Commission in the strictest confidence. You have nothing to fear from contacting the Commission.
BY CONFIDENTIAL TELEPHONE:
Britain and Ireland
00800 – 55585500
BY CONFIDENTIAL POST BOX:
PO BOX 10827
All information that they receive is privileged – it cannot be passed on to other agencies or used in a court of law.
It can and is only used to try and locate the remains of the Disappeared.
The Commission guarantees that any information given to it or its agents will be treated as absolutely confidential and will be used solely for the purpose of locating victims’ remains.
Other links/media coverage:
Ulster Televsion coverage
CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet), University of Ulster
Wikipedia entry for ICLVR