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Funeral arrangements to be made for 'Disappeared'

Relatives of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee visit the site in Coghalstown, Co Meath, where the pair's bodies were found in June. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Ed Carty and Claire Simpson

THE families of IRA murder victims Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee are making arrangements to bury their loved ones - more than 40 years after they disappeared.

Their remains were found in a single grave on reclaimed bogland in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June. Official tests have now been completed and the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) confirmed the two men had been formally identified.

Mr McKee's sisters Maria and Philomena said they were pleased they will finally be able to bury their brother - but said it was "bittersweet" news that the remains had been identified.

"The news has hit us with the shock of reality, even though we were expecting it," they told BBC NI.

"We are so so glad that, after 43 years, he will now be buried with our mother who never recovered from his disappearance."

Sir Ken Bloomfield and Frank Murray, commissioners of the ICLVR, said the remains will be released to relatives in the coming days.

"The thoughts of everyone in the commission are with the Wright and McKee families at this difficult time," they said.

Separate inquests will be held in front of Dublin city coroner, Dr Brian Farrell.

The bodies were found during a dig to find a third Disappeared victim, former Cistercian monk Joe Lynskey who was abducted and murdered by the paramilitary group in August 1972. The IRA only admitted his murder after details of his disappearance were revealed in The Irish News in December 2009.

Mr Wright (25) and 17 year-old Mr McKee's grave was only a few miles from where the body of Brendan Megraw was found last year following searches at Oristown, Co Meath.

The victims, both Provisional IRA members, were abducted from west Belfast in October 1972 and accused of being British agents.

Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic investigator with the ICLVR, said the dig in Co Meath for Mr Lynskey's remains will continue over the next few weeks.

"We certainly have not given up hope," he said.

"We are satisfied that the information we have received is genuine and we will continue to work with it."

He said the Lynskey family have shown "remarkable forbearance" since they were told a body had been discovered only to have their hopes dashed.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his thoughts are with the McKee and Wright families.

"Republicans have cooperated fully with the Commission and we now need to continue to do our utmost to bring closure for the remaining families," he said.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood paid tribute to the "immense" resilience of the families of the Disappeared.

"This is a day when the thoughts of all are with the families of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. After so long, their remains have been identified and will now be released to their families," he said.

Since 1999 the ICVLR has searched for 16 people who were officially listed as the Disappeared. The remains of 12 of the victims have been recovered and formally identified to date.

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