AP front 1 - 2022

3 June 1999 Edition

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Hope remains for return of missing bodies

Difficult terrain and the passage of time are the latest obstacles to beset the eight families still searching for the remains of relatives who were killed by the IRA and buried in secret graves over the past 25 years. Some of the families involved are republican families and have shown absolutely immense courage in the face of an appalling experience.

The recovery of the remains of Eamon Molloy last Friday, returned in a coffin and left in Faughart graveyard in Dundalk, County Louth, raised hopes that the recovery of the other eight bodies would follow in swift succession. But as each day passes, the optimism with which this endeavour began has faded into increasing pessimism.

Understandably some of the ensuing anguish of the families has spilled over into recrimination and criticism of the IRA's attempt to resolve the recovery of the missing bodies.

Sadly, the frustration of family members, who can only watch and wait as the gruesome task of recovery continues, has been repeated in the media, fuelling unnecessary fears that the IRA is not acting in good faith.

  The IRA is well aware of the importance of detailed information in expediting the retrieval of the bodies. All the information in the IRA's possession which would assist in their location has been passed on. Had the IRA been able to recover all the bodies itself it would have done so  
IRA spokesperson

Following remarks by Denis Faul questioning the validity of the information relayed by the IRA to the Independent Commission for the Recovery of Victims' Remains, an IRA source contacted An Phoblacht. ``The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has approached this issue in good faith,'' said the IRA source.

``The IRA carried out a thorough and extensive investigation into the whereabouts of the graves. A number of factors both hampered and protracted this investigation including the lapse of time, changes in leadership and the deaths of both members and former members of the IRA who were involved.''

``The inquiry was concluded,'' said the source, ``when the IRA was satisfied they had gathered all available information.

``The IRA is well aware of the importance of detailed information in expediting the retrieval of the bodies. All the information in the IRA's possession which would assist in their location has been passed on. Had the IRA been able to recover all the bodies itself it would have done so,'' the source stressed.

Referring to the recovery of Eamon Molloy's remains, the source continued: ``In the one circumstance in which the IRA could establish the exact location of the grave, the IRA recovered the body.

``Attempts were made to recover other bodies,'' said the source, ``but they were unsuccessful. In these instances it has proved impossible to establish exact locations.''

Pointing out that the IRA is not responsible for all those who have gone missing over the past 25 years, the source continued: ``In the IRA's approach to this investigation, it set itself towards doing all within its power to alleviate the suffering of the families. The IRA is conscious that the nature of the terrain in which some of the graves are located and geological change over the years will render difficult the task of recovering the bodies. However it remains the IRA's hope that the bodies can be recovered as soon as possible and that the prolonged anguish of the families can be brought to an end.''

The background to the current search for bodies at locations around the country can be traced back to the first IRA cessation in 1994, when several West Belfast families whose relatives had been killed by the IRA in the 1970s and buried in secret graves contacted Gerry Adams in relation to the return of their remains.

Gerry Adams met the families and promised to do all that he could to resolve the matter. For Sinn Féin, the issue of the missing bodies is a clear matter of human rights and justice for the families involved and the party has said from the outset that all of the bodies should be returned with utmost speed so that the anguish of the families can be eased.

The Sinn Féin President commented this week: ``I am sorry that the bereaved families have been subjected to the trauma and pain arising from these killings and from the long wait they have had until now to have the bodies returned

``There is no easy way around this issue. It is part of the process of reconciliation which has come about because of the peace process.

``People are very upset by the harrowing scenes. This is a very painful chapter in our history. The enormity of the tragedy is effecting everyone on the island, but most especially the families involved.''

Adams has also said that unlike those who have attacked republicans for years, Sinn Féin recognised the injustice of the situation and spoke out against it and worked to see the bodies returned.

Sinn Féin has said it believes the IRA is being genuine in its attempts to deal with the issue. The IRA has apologised to the families. The hope now must be that all the remains will be located and returned to their families as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, Gerry Adams urged individuals with more precise information about the location of the bodies to provide details to the commission appointed to aversee the returns of the remains.

``There is always a possibility that someone out there has some little piece of information or that someone's memory has been triggered by the television images that we have seen. If that is the case then I would certainly urge such individuals to give such information to the commission as soon as possible.

``I like everyone else believe the fact that this is going on for so long is a source of unimaginable pain for those that are witnessing it. I think the whole nation is watching and I hope that the remains will be retrieved as quickly as possible,'' he added.

Adams said that his understanding, having been in touch with the intermediaries over recent days, is that all information uncovered by the IRA is in the hands of the commission.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1