APPEAL: Search For Joe Lynskey. Jon Hill, Senior Investigator with Commission for Location of Victims Remains, in a reclaimed bog field at a Disappeared 15 acre search site near Coghalstown in County Meath.

GERRY ADAMS: Search for Disappeared deserves support of all

IN the 1970s the IRA shot dead and secretly buried a number of people. This is a terrible legacy of that period of our history.  The families of those killed have suffered a grievous injustice. Republicans, including the IRA, recognise and have acknowledged this fact. What happened was wrong and unjustifiable. 

In the autumn of 1997 as part of the outworking of the peace process and following representations from Fr Alec Reid and me, the IRA established a special investigative unit to ascertain the whereabouts of these graves. Following that investigation the IRA said it  believed that the number of persons involved was nine. In April 1999 it issued a statement acknowledging this and naming those killed and buried by it. 

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The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains was established in the same month by the Irish and British governments. This followed representations from myself and Fr Alec Reid. The hope at that time that the remains would be quickly recovered proved naïve. 

One reason for this is that the IRA – as is widely acknowledged - had no institutional memory – no records to examine that would provide accurate information. It was entirely reliant on the memories of those who were involved. After so many years memories proved elusive in some cases, small numbers of people were involved and some had died in the interval. Geography and landscape too had changed, making the pinpointing of locations challenging. And of course the IRA no longer exists. 

SEARCH: Columba McVeigh

SEARCH: Columba McVeigh

After the first bodies were recovered there was then a significant gap. I discussed this with Fr Alec Reid and we put a proposal to the governments in 2001 in which he urged them to employ experts in the recovery of remains. We also proposed the use of high-tech equipment and archaeological methods, including archaeological specialists, forensic experts, specialist scanning equipment and body dogs. We also suggested that a 'recreation of the scene’ approach be adopted.

It took some years for this to materialise. The service of a forensic science investigative consultant was secured. Geoff Knupfer took up his position in 2005 and immediately carried out a review of the work up to that point. 

Republicans immediately engaged with Mr Knupfer and up to his retirement last year met with him on numerous occasions as the efforts to locate remains continued. In 2007 Mr Knupfer acknowledged the co-operation he and his team received. He said: "In a spirit of co-operation and reconciliation they [the IRA] are trying to help in every way they can. I am absolutely convinced that they are doing everything they can to assist. The support we have had from them has been absolutely 100 per cent from day one."

Geoff Knupfer’s deputy, Jon Hill, who has since taken over as lead investigator, reiterated this.   

The process to date has involved:

·The use of aerial photographs from military or commercial sources of the sites at the time of the killings.

·Ordinance survey maps of this period.

·Forestry records.

·X-ray equipment.

·Archaeological experts.

·Records, maps, photos, reports of work already carried out on each site.

·The appointment of a project manager with the power to make things happen.

Its success can be seen in its results. In its most recent account, the Commission reported that seventeen people were killed and secretly buried. Seamus Ruddy was a victim of the INLA and his remains were recovered in May 2017 and Seamus Maguire is believed to have been the victim of another republican group. The list does not include Lisa Dorrian, who is believed to have been killed by the UVF and whose death after the Good Friday Agreement is outside the remit of the Commission. As a result of the work of the Commission and information provided to it by republican sources, thirteen bodies have been recovered. 

There are still three outstanding cases that were the responsibility of the IRA. These are Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac, and Joseph Lynskey. The failure thus far to find the remaining bodies is not due to any lack of resolve or cooperation by republicans. 

All of these families have a fundamental right to bury their loved ones with dignity. I continue to meet with the Commission and I want to appeal again for anyone with information to bring that information forward. They can do so in complete confidence to me, or to the families involved or to the Commission. If they wish to speak to someone else that too is fine. What is important is that anyone with information makes that information available.

Finally, I want to commend all of the families who have campaigned with dignity for many years to locate the remains of their loved ones. I also want to acknowledge once again the grave injustice inflicted upon them and to express my deep regret about this. 
I want to thank everyone who has worked to help the families, including the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, An Garda Síochána and the experts and staff who have been brought in to assist in this work. They deserve our full support.
The killing and secret burial of people has long been a brutal feature of war. In 2009 a report by a UN Working Group recorded a total of 53,232 cases from 1980 affecting 82 states. 

According to historians Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc and Dr Andy Bielenberg, in an article, ‘Shallow Graves—Documenting and Assessing IRA Disappearances During the Irish Revolution 1919-1923’ the IRA was responsible for killing and secretly burying approximately 110 people during that period. No effort was made following the end of the Civil War to establish any process by which these bodies could be recovered and returned to their families.

We must continue our efforts to recover the remains of Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Joseph Lynskey. 

I would appeal to anyone with information to bring that forward. They can do so directly to the Commission on the basis of confidentiality. The confidential number for the Commission is 00800 55585500. 

Israel’s war against children

The accounts of the Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people have produced many difficult and heart-wrenching moments. The destruction of homes and schools and hospitals, the deliberate killing of over 30,000 children, women and men, the mass murder of health workers, journalists and civilians, the destruction of cemeteries, the premeditated shepherding of civilians into killing zones by Israeli forces, and so much more have shocked and appalled millions around the world. The Israeli state’s war on Gaza will be remembered for all this. It will also be forever remembered as Israel’s war against children. 

Hind Rajab was aged six. Look at the photo of this beautiful young child. No threat to anyone. She went missing on January 29 in Gaza City along with her aunt and uncle and cousins as they tried to flee in their car. She spoke by mobile to the Palestine Red Crescent. An audio recording of her last words were released by it. Her family had been killed by an Israeli tank and she was alone in the car with the bodies around her.  

HEARTBREAK: Hind Rajan was killed by the Israel army alongside family members

HEARTBREAK: Hind Rajan was killed by the Israel army alongside family members

She was terrified. She pleaded for help. “Come take me. You will come and take me?.. I’m so scared, please come. Please call someone to come and take me.” Desperately the Red Crescent sought clearance from the Israeli army to send an ambulance. But contact was lost with that also.

At the weekend her decomposing body and those of her family were found in their bullet-riddled car. The ambulance was found parked nearby. It was destroyed and the two medics killed.

This is Israel’s war on children. Almost 12,000 children have been killed and many more lie buried under the rubble.

And with Israel marshalling its forces for an attack on Rafah – the largest displaced refugee camp in the world – the scene is being set for a humanitarian catastrophe not witnessed before.

Moore Street raffle

The Moore Street Preservation Trust are raffling a framed, limited edition Moore Street print by renowned Irish Artist Robert Ballagh. 

Tickets are €10/£9 and the draw will take place on Easter Sunday. 

Get your tickets here.

Remember our history.  Support our campaign.  Stop the demolition of Moore Street.  Build a 1916 Cultural Quarter.