Last night we witnessed a harrowing programme chronicling the bleak tale of the Disappeared. These are the silent witnesses to some of the grimmest and most cynical crimes of that troubled time. Sons, Brothers, Husbands, Fathers & Mothers were ruthlessly taken from their families in the dark of night on the orders of self-appointed local war lords. Some were barely old enough to shave before they disappeared into the depths of an IRA conspiracy.
The gaping hole that the abrupt, shock absence of these men and women left in their families’ lives is a legacy that they still struggle with today.
RTE and BBC did a valuable public service in producing this documentary which dealt in great detail with those awful murders and devastated families.
Jean McConville, a mother of ten trying to make ends meet in desperate circumstances in West Belfast was executed and disappeared on the orders of the Belfast IRA Commander. The family unit was shattered and siblings separated from one another.
We have yet to hear the IRA leadership of that time deal in any appropriate way with a response if there is such a thing when one is dealing with murder. The leadership of that time have very serious questions to deal with arising from this callous murder.
The family of Kevin McKee still linger with a sad regret over a final phone call from their brother before he went forever silent.
The searing testimony of Charlie Armstrong’s widow whose loss is still so raw and so painful to watch even after the years is a sharp reminder of the devastating impact that these crimes have had upon the families of the men and women who were murdered and submerged under a web of IRA lies and propaganda. Mrs Armstrong’s quiet dignity and strength as she visited the grave of her husband stood in stark contrast last night to the weasel words of Gerry Adams as even now he tries to muddy the waters.
These victims’ disappearance was compounded by the vicious malevolent rumour mill that attempted to cast aspersions on their characters and or give false hope to bereft families. The IRA still refuse to accept responsibility for the murder and legitimate questions are not answered by Deputy Adams or others.
Since it was established in 1999 in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement the Independent Commission for the location of Victims’ Remains has been working on the lonely task of securing a just outcome for the Disappeared. The remains of Joe Lyskey, Kevin McKee, Columba McVeigh, Seamus Wright, Captain Robert Nairac, Brendan Megraw, Seamus Ruddy are all lying unmarked in the ground somewhere in the Irish countryside. There are people who know where they are buried. Some of these people are now in prominent public positions in Irish life.
There is a heavy moral obligation on those who know to act upon that knowledge. These families deserve to be made whole even at this late stage. The prevarication of the IRA and its fellow travellers in identifying the victims they were responsible for is a damning indictment of the kind of moral judgement shown by the organisation.
The weight of history is a heavy burden in this country. Shallow graves in desolate bogs, on lonely beaches and down distant country lanes are a testament to that burden. The victims’ families are left with that dark legacy. Contrary to what Deputy Adams and others would like now to claim, everyone in the North does not share responsibility for what happened there. While the IRA organisation from top to bottom were intent on destruction, families in nationalist communities across the North were resisting their campaign of terror, bringing up families and trying to earn a living in peace.
I trust that the government will give full assistance and support to the Independent Commission as it continues its work. I hope that all Members in this house rise to their moral responsibility to help those families.
The request of these families is a very small one. With courage, with dignity these families have outlined very clearly that they want a final resting place for their loved ones where they can lay flowers and say a prayer. Again let us all recognise that these are simple requests; people with knowledge of the location of those people murdered in horrific circumstances must come forward and give every possible assistance to the Commission. Time is definitely on nobody’s side.