I’ll never give up hope his body will be found, says sister of Columba McVeigh

Dympna Kerr, the sister of Columba McVeigh, at Bragan bog (Liam McBurney/PA)
Dympna Kerr, the sister of Columba McVeigh, at Bragan bog (Liam McBurney/PA)

The sister of one of the final of Northern Ireland’s Disappeared to remain missing has said she will never give up hope or stop praying that he will be found.

Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975.

He is one of several people who were disappeared in this way.

While others have been found in recent years by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR), Mr McVeigh remains missing.

Mr McVeigh’s sister, Dympna Kerr, visited Bragan Bog, Co Monaghan, where searches remain ongoing on Monday ahead of the 48th anniversary of her brother’s abduction from Dublin where he had been living.

She also appealed for fresh information to help the ICLVR find Mr McVeigh.

The most recent searches have been running since last October, with several breaks due to severe weather conditions.

Mrs Kerr said she will never give up hope, and will not give up praying that her brother’s body will be found, and her family able to give him a Christian burial.

“Every anniversary that comes and goes is harder than the last,” she said.

“I know people think that I must be angry after all these years of waiting and disappointment but anger won’t keep you going during dark days and God knows there have been too many of those.

“I feel sad, I feel sick and sometimes on the edge of despair but I can’t give in to that.

Columba McVeigh search
Members of the ICLVR work at Bragan Bog in Co Monaghan (Peter Morrison/PA)

“I can’t let go of the hope that one day we’ll get the call that says ‘We’ve found him’.

“That’s what I pray for every single day in life.”

During her visit to Bragan Bog on Monday, Mrs Kerr was accompanied by Sandra Peake, chief executive of the Wave Trauma Centre, which supports the families of the Disappeared.

McVeigh family friend Father Joe Gormley read a prayer for the Disappeared that he had specially written.

Mrs Kerr said as the latest search nears its end, it will break her heart if Mr McVeigh is not found.

“But if that happens I still won’t give up hoping and praying that someone somewhere who has that piece of information that will end this torture for us will get it to the ICLVR,” she said.

“The ICLVR are the best in every way. If Columba is where they have been told to search they will find him. If they don’t it’s because he’s not there.

Columba McVeigh search
Columba McVeigh, who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975 (Family handout/PA)

“We’ll need more accurate information if we leave Bragan again without Columba.”

She added: “All we want is to bring Columba home. To have the wake. To bring him to the cemetery in Donaghmore and lay him to a final rest beside our mum and dad.

“That’s it. Nothing more. Who can deny us that.”

Seventeen people were disappeared by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Aided by the ICLVR, which was set up by the UK and Irish governments to investigate their whereabouts, 13 have been found over the last two decades.

The remains of Mr McVeigh, former monk Joe Lynskey, British Army Captain Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire, who was in his mid-20s and from near Lurgan, Co Armagh, have never been recovered.

Co Down hairdresser Lisa Dorrian, who vanished in the post-Troubles era from a caravan park in Ballyhalbert, Co Down, in 2005, is now considered one of the remaining five Disappeared victims whose bodies are yet to be found.

Republican paramilitaries were not suspected in her case.

Anyone with information on any of the outstanding Disappeared cases should contact the ICLVR by telephone: 00800-55585500, international +353 1 602 8655, email or by post to ICLVR PO Box 10827.