Remains of two bodies found at 'Disappeared' site
The remains of two bodies have been found on reclaimed bogland in the Irish Republic where three of the IRA Disappeared are believed to have been secretly buried.
A dig on the farmland in Coghalstown, Co Meath, as part of the search for the remains of former monk Joe Lynskey unearthed one body in the morning, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) said.
A second body was discovered as further examinations took place at the site and preparations were made to take the first body out the ground.
IRA victims Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee are believed to be buried in the same area, the ICLVR said.
"We have always said that we think three bodies are in that area and until there is further identification we just don't know," a spokesman said.
It is understood the second set of human remains was unearthed as specialists cleared ground around the first body to prepare it for removal.
State Pathologist Marie Cassidy was at the site for a number of hours.
The farm in Coghalstown, Co Meath, has been examined for several months in the latest attempt to recover the body of Joe Lynskey, a former monk who went missing from west Belfast in August 1972 and was executed and secretly buried by the IRA.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) said the discovery was made by a team of contractors under the supervision of a forensic archaeologist.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out after both sets of remains have been recovered.
The ICLVR brought in a sniffer dog late last year to help detect signs of human remains on the reclaimed bog and have been carrying out more detailed surveys and digs since March.
Mr Lynskey, a former Cistercian monk from Beechmount, Belfast, was one of 17 people abducted, killed and clandestinely dumped or buried by republicans. The IRA only admitted his murder almost 40 years on, in 2010.
The list of Disappeared includes Gareth O'Connor who was murdered in 2003. His body was recovered on June 11 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth.
The Commission has investigated 16 abductions and murders. To date the remains of 10 of the Disappeared have been recovered, the most recent being Brendan Megraw, whose remains were found in Oristown bog, also in Co Meath, last October.
In May Mr Lynskey's niece Maria issued a renewed appeal for help in finding her uncle's body and said she remained convinced that someone had information which could help.
The forensic dig at Coghalstown involved the painstakingly slow examination of more than six hectares of reclaimed bog.
Mr Wright, another of the Disappeared believed to be dumped in the bogland, was also from Belfast.
He was in the IRA and was murdered in the same year by his former colleagues who accused him of being a British Army agent and a member of the Military Reaction Force.
Mr Wright was married and 25 years old when he went missing in October 1972. He worked as an asphalt layer.
Mr McKee, again from Belfast, and in the IRA, he was also murdered in the same year.
He was alleged to have been a British Army agent and member of its Military Reaction Force, an undercover unit. He was interrogated and murdered by the terror group.
Mr Lynskey's niece Maria had been expected to visit the site after the discovery and said he thoughts were with other families awaiting news.
"We would like to thank the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains and those who have engaged with the commission in the search for Joe," she said.
"Our thoughts are with the other families whose loved ones remain disappeared."
Extensive searches have been carried out at the site for both Mr Wright and Mr McKee but this year was the first dig for Mr Lynskey's remains.
Months of painstaking searches by the ICLVR have been taking place in Coghalstown, including the use of a cadaver dog late last year to detect signs of human remains.
The Lynskey family appealed for anyone with information about other bodies to contact the commission.
The three Disappeared were among 17 people abducted, killed and clandestinely dumped or buried by republicans.
The discovery, if confirmed as bodies of those people on the list, would be the 11th and 12th discoveries by the ICLVR.
The area of former bogland where the finds were made was reclaimed for farmland in the 1980s and used as pasture since.
About six hectares was being dug since the ICLVR brought forensic archaeologists, investigators and contractors on to the site in March.
Local priest John O'Brien was called to the scene after the discovery.
Jon Hill, senior investigator with the ICLVR, spoke with Lynskey family members following the initial discovery.
"They were shocked but in a way pleased," he said. "They are always hopeful, of course, but they are prepared to not find their loved ones as well.
"It's such a difficult process. There are no guarantees, it's something that we always try to impress on the families.
"But when it does come around it's a great shock and a great relief at the same time."
Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland's Minister for Justice, said she hoped the discovery will allow another of the families of one of the Disappeared to give a loved one a proper burial.
"I hope the discovery of remains in Co Meath will allow another chapter to be closed in the tragic saga of the Disappeared," she said.
"For a family to be bereaved but denied the opportunity to bury their loved one is a trauma that is hard to imagine."
Ms Fitzgerald said her thoughts are with those who still await the return of remains.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams welcomed the discovery and reiterated appeals for anyone with information on the Disappeared to come forward.
"I welcome this news. I hope the identity of the remains can be quickly verified and that this discovery will bring some closure to the family and loved ones," he said.
The list of 17 Disappeared includes Gareth O'Connor who was murdered in 2003. His body was recovered on June 11 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth.
The ICLVR has investigated 16 of the abductions and murders.
The most recent confirmed discovery was that of Brendan Megraw, whose remains were found in Oristown bog, also in Co Meath, last October.
Alex Attwood, the SDLP MLA for West Belfast, expressed his admiration of all the families of the Disappeared and called for the issues of the past to be dealt with comprehensively and ethically.
"The thoughts of everyone today will be with the family of Joe Lynskey and with all the families of the Disappeared," he said.
"The resilience and dignity of the families has been remarkable. It should inform everyone that the past must be addressed comprehensively and ethically.
"Nothing less will be good enough or measure up to the needs of victims and survivors."