Opinion

As the latest Columba McVeigh search ends, republicans must do more for the families of Disappeared

The Irish News view: Sinn Féin can help uncover the information relatives desperately need

Actor James Nesbitt (left), a patron of the WAVE Trauma Centre and long time friend and supporter of the Families of the Disappeared, walking with Joe Lynskey's niece Maria Lynskey (centre) and Columba McVeigh's sister Dympna Kerr (right) during the 17th annual All Souls Silent Walk for the Disappeared at Stormont this month. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA
Actor James Nesbitt (left), a patron of the WAVE Trauma Centre and long time friend and supporter of the Families of the Disappeared, walking with Joe Lynskey's niece Maria Lynskey (centre) and Columba McVeigh's sister Dympna Kerr (right) during the 17th annual All Souls Silent Walk for the Disappeared at Stormont this month. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

It is impossible not to be deeply moved by the depthless heartbreak and frustration of Columba McVeigh's family.

Yet another search has drawn to a close without the desolate Bragan Bog yielding its decades' old secrets and the outcome Mr McVeigh's sister and brother so desperately want: the recovery of his remains.

Read more:

  • Urgent appeal for information as latest search for Columba McVeigh ends
  • The hope and sorrow of the search for the Disappeared of the Troubles
  • Legacy fight continues

From Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, Mr McVeigh was just 19 years old when he was abducted by the Provisional IRA from Dublin, where he had been living, in November 1975.

He became one of the Disappeared, a group upon whom republican paramilitaries visited the most brutal of deaths. Not content with kidnapping and murdering young men like Mr McVeigh or mothers like Jean McConville, the depravity was immeasurably compounded by the practice of secretly burying their bodies. In a pathetic attempt to justify their medieval cruelty, the perpetrators would smear the reputations and memories of their victims.

Columba McVeigh was 'disappeared' by the IRA in 1975
Columba McVeigh was 'disappeared' by the IRA in 1975

Following the Good Friday Agreement, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established to focus on finding the remains of the Disappeared. It has been a hero of the last 25 years, its compassion and indefatigability a rebuke to a callous barbarism that will forever stain the republican movement.

Of the 17 people on the commission's list, the remains of 13 have been recovered. Along with Mr McVeigh, Joseph Lynskey, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire remain missing.

In Mr McVeigh's case, there have now been six fruitless searches of more than 26 acres of remote bogland near Emyvale, Co Monaghan.

The commission says it will never close a case while there is still "the possibility that the information we need can be brought forward and acted upon".

It has made an urgent appeal for more actionable information, emphasising that "our mission is entirely humanitarian on behalf of the families who will continue to suffer".

Dympna Kerr, the sister of Columba McVeigh, at Bragan Bog near Emyvale in Co Monaghan, during a search this year for his remains
Dympna Kerr, the sister of Columba McVeigh, at Bragan Bog near Emyvale in Co Monaghan, during a search this year for his remains

Mr McVeigh's sister, Dympna Kerr, has again spoken of the family's sorrow and grief. Her brother, Oliver, has raised the prospect of the family taking legal action against Sinn Féin.

There are members of the party today, he says, who know where his brother was buried and who have still not told the truth.

Sinn Féin is, correctly, focused on highlighting injustices of the Troubles carried out by the state. It needs to exert similar pressure on those within the republican movement who can give Columba McVeigh the simple dignity of a Christian burial.