By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 March, 2015
“Some families are living a long Good Friday and it is difficult for them to know the Easter promise of resurrection.”
The Primate of All Ireland has appealed to anyone who has information on the remaining six people who were ‘Disappeared’ by republicans to come forward and end the pain, uncertainty and waiting of their families.
In a message on Sunday, Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “Some families are living a long Good Friday and it is difficult for them to know the Easter promise of resurrection.”
He was speaking after celebrating a Mass in Armagh for the families of the Disappeared. These included the families of the eleven people whose remains have been located and the families of the remaining six whose place of burial remains unknown.
For sixteen years the families of those abducted, murdered and secretly buried, have been meeting annually on Palm Sunday through the WAVE trauma centre at St Patrick’s College in Armagh for a Mass of Remembrance.
The gathering helps the families to connect with each other in solidarity and compassion.
In his statement, Archbishop Martin appealed to the conscience of anyone “who has information that might help to come forward to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains”.
He described his first time meeting and praying with the families of ‘The Disappeared’ as a humbling experience.
“Over these sixteen years the families have comforted each other, and consoling friendships have formed among them. There have been moments of hope when fresh information has come forward leading to a new search. There have been great disappointments when some of those searches have proven futile,” the Archbishop said.
During that time, eleven of the seventeen families have recovered the long-lost bodies of their loved ones, allowing them to begin at last to find some closure, he said.
But for other families “the pain, uncertainty and waiting continues”.
Speaking at the beginning of Holy Week, Dr Martin said the sorrowful burden the families of the Disappeared carried was a reminder of how Jesus had to carry his Cross along the Via Dolorosa.
Archbishop Martin said the recovery last October in Co Meath of Brendan Megraw’s body, encouraged the families not to lose hope.
“I appeal to the conscience of anyone who has information that might help to come forward to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains so that, even at this late stage, the remaining families can experience the consolation of being able to offer a Christian burial to their loved ones.”
He highlighted that the information could only be used to recover the bodies of those disappeared.
Earlier this month, Bishop Michael Smith of Meath made a fresh plea for any information that might help locate the bodies of those who disappeared during the Troubles.
His intervention followed the launch of the search for the body of 40-year-old Joe Lynskey from Belfast who was disappeared and presumed killed by the IRA in 1972.
That search is continuing at Coghalstown bog, close to Oristown in Co Meath where the body of Brendan Megraw was discovered last October.
“All the families want is to give their loved ones a decent Christian burial. No retribution is suffered by anyone giving information since a law enacted both here and in Britain protects them,” the bishop said.
“That four young men were murdered and their bodies dumped in unmarked graves in this area is a deep stain on the good name of this parish,” Dr Smith stated.
“These actions have brought immense pain and suffering to their extended families over the past forty years.”
“Sadly there may be people in the area that have information which would help in bringing closure to this sorry saga.”
“In these circumstances, that anyone in a position to relieve the suffering and pain of the families would refuse to do is a challenge to their conscience. They will ultimately be accountable before God,”the Bishop of Meath said.
One of the Disappeared whose remains were located was mother-of-10 Jean McConville who was abducted in west Belfast in 1972.
The widow was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army.
That allegation was rejected by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
Jean McConville, who had recently suffered a breakdown following the death of her husband, was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passedto the Gardaí.
However, her children had to wait until August 2003 for her remains to be located when they were found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth.