Northern Ireland

Mass for Disappeared streamed online due to coronavirus precautions

Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac
Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac

A special Palm Sunday Mass for the Disappeared has been held virtually for the first time due to coronavirus social distancing rules.

For the last two decades, the relatives of those disappeared by terrorists during Northern Ireland’s troubled past have gathered at Armagh every Palm Sunday.

Of the 16 Disappeared, who include Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, the remains of 13 have been found while three remain missing.

The families of Co Tyrone teenager Columba McVeigh, former monk Joe Lynskey and Captain Robert Nairac are hopeful their bodies can be found.

Due to social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Palm Sunday service was streamed from St Mary’s Church in Londonderry.

Father Joe Gormley celebrated Mass and lit candles in remembrance of the Disappeared.

“It is particularly important for the families to know that in the midst of this worldwide crisis, they still remain in the thoughts and prayers of everyone who knows how they have suffered and for those whose loved ones have not been found continue to suffer almost unendurable loss and pain over so many years,” he said.

The sister of Columba McVeigh said the spirituality brought them comfort even though they could not gather together.

Dympna Kerr said: “The annual Palm Sunday Mass means so much to the families.

“Even though we can’t be together as in previous years, we will be together spiritually and that brings its own comfort.

“We are very grateful that Fr Joe is reaching out to us all, particularly at this time.

“We continue to hope and pray that Columba, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac will be returned for the Christian burial denied them for far too long.”

Sandra Peake, chief executive of the Wave Trauma Centre, said they remembered all those who were taken, including Lisa Dorrian ,who is believed to have been disappeared by loyalist paramilitaries in Co Down in 2005.

“At a time when we all are told that we need to stay at home to help combat this terrible pandemic, the importance of the family sticking together is emphasised as never before,” she said.

“It has often been said that the families of the Disappeared are in a real sense one family offering mutual support and giving each other the strength to carry on, despite the hurt that has been done to them.

“We will remember all those who were taken and especially those who have yet to be found, including Lisa Dorrian.

“We know that many people in Ireland and beyond will light candles in remembrance and in hope.

“The strength of spirit shown by the families is undiminished and they will not rest until all those disappeared will be returned to their families.”

Anyone with information relating to the whereabouts of the remains of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh or Robert Nairac should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and the untraceable anonymous online form is at

The ICLVR can be contacted by telephone on: 00800-55585500; international: +353 1 602 8655; by email at:; or by post at: ICLVR PO Box 10827.