Northern Ireland news

Martin McElkerney 'played key role' in recovery of Disappeared INLA victim Seamus Ruddy

Seamus Ruddy, whose remains were recovered in France in 2017

FORMER INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney "played a key role" in the recovery of the remains of 'Disappeared' victim Seamus Ruddy, mourners have been told.

Several thousand people lined the streets of the Divis area of west Belfast yesterday as the 57-year-old's coffin, draped in a starry plough flag and flanked by a colour party of masked men, made its way to St Peter's Cathedral.

Following Requiem Mass the cortège walked the three miles to Milltown cemetery, where a much smaller gathering heard tributes.

Among those to address the crowd was Strabane republican Willie Gallagher, who said McElkerney "held senior positions" in the republican socialist movement throughout his life.

He said he had been willing to take on any task and "despite medical difficulties at that time, stepped forward and helped bring closure to the Ruddy family - ending a sad chapter for us all".

Former INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney

The remains of 32-year-old Seamus Ruddy, from Newry, were found at Pont-de-l'Arche, near Rouen in northern France in May 2017.

He had been abducted in Paris in 1985 where he had been living with his partner and was murdered and secretly buried.

It is believed he was killed amid a dispute with INLA members about an arms dump.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains eventually recovered Mr Ruddy's remains following new information given to them by the INLA.

McElkerney died in hospital last Friday following a shooting incident in Milltown cemetery.

The funeral of former INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney leaves his home in the Divis area of west Belfast. Picture Mal McCann.

He was sentenced to three life terms for his part in an INLA bomb that killed Kevin Valliday (11), Stephen Bennett (14) and Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller (20) at the Divis Flats complex in west Belfast in 1982, and was released from prison in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Fr Gary Donegan told mourners that he "became aware that the choices he made in life had significant and lasting consequences for others, including his family".

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