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Families of the Disappeared speak out as TDs seek debate on tragedy

The Disappeared-n
From L to r: Brendan Megraw, Columba McVeigh and Brian McKinney are three of the Disappeared who have family members living in Britain

THE mother of one of the so-called Disappeared flies from England to Belfast every week to visit her son’s grave.

Margaret McKinney, the mother of Brian McKinney who was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1978, is one of three known family members of the Disappeared living in Britain.

The plight of the families, some of whom are yet to recover the bodies of their loved ones, was thrust into the spotlight again earlier this month following a RTÉ/BBC documentary that shed new light on the story.

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Now living with her daughter in Harrogate, Mrs McKinney told The Irish Post she has given up on ever getting justice for her son’s death.

“This doesn’t go away,” she said. “It really doesn’t. I return every week and I go up to Brian’s grave. The first place my family take me to is the cemetery. I’ve even given up on justice, because I don’t want any more heartache for any other families.

“But what they done to Brian, I know in my heart I can’t forgive them. I wonder sometimes too do their families know what they done.”

Brian McKinney, 22, and John McClory, 18, were abducted and murdered after being accused of stealing IRA weapons for use in robberies. Their bodies were uncovered near a bog in Co. Monaghan in 1999.

The remains of Columba McVeigh, who disappeared in 1975, have never been recovered. Mr McVeigh was alleged to be a British agent. Today, his sister, Dympna Kerr lives in Liverpool.

“Our mother went to her grave unable to tend the grave of her son. Let us bring Columba home and end this torment,” she has previously said.

While Deirdre Carnegie, the sister of Brendan McGraw abducted and killed in 1978 after allegedly confessing to being a British agent, lives in Newcastle.

“I hope to God the documentary does make a difference,” said Margaret McKinney. “There has been too much going on, families have been left without their loved ones and so much has happened. That’s all wrong.”

The documentary paid particular attention to the position Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams held in Belfast during the period when some of the Disappeared were abducted.

Mr Adams has always denied he was a member of the IRA.

“I’ve no time for Gerry Adams at all,” said Mrs McKinney. “We thought he might be able to tell us where Brian was before the body was recovered. But he didn’t know nothing.”

When asked what she hopes might happen next, she said: “God I wouldn’t want any more things to happen. That would be more heartache. My family now, God love them, they had lost me too really because I was out in the fields looking for Brian’s body — there was no way he would have stayed out of the house overnight.

She added: “It shouldn’t have ever happened, two children dying like that. It’s bad enough losing him but not knowing where to go. He was diagnosed with having a mental illness and he was the one child we were very protective of. You’d have to be warning him not to go into the wrong areas during the Troubles. He was only five foot tall. It wasn’t like he was He-Man or anything.”

But she is adamant her story and that of her son must be told.

“I don’t know how anybody ever done what they done to him,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone could ever have done it. I just feel they mustn’t have known him. They must have been strangers.

“The story needs to be told but at the same time I can be content that I know where Brian is because all the years I didn’t know. They were the worst years too.”

Meanwhile in Ireland coalition TDs have called for a Dáil debate on the Disappeared as pressure increases on Gerry Adams, who received huge criticism following the documentary as questions continue about the unrecovered bodies.

The programme featured a recording of the late IRA commander Brendan Hughes accusing Mr Adams of ordering the execution of Jean McConville, the Belfast mother-of-10 who was abducted and killed in 1972.

Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said a debate on the matter was of major national importance.

“It was heart-wrenching to hear the stories of the relatives of the Disappeared recounting how their lives were torn apart by the death of their loved ones,” he said. “Seven families are still waiting on closure and justice. They deserve all of the political support they can get.”


Robert Mulhern

Robert is a freelance news and sports journalist. He is also the author of A Very Different County and creator/producer of Sex, Flights and Videotapes for RTE's Doc on One. Follow him @MulhernRobert on Twitter

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