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Tuesday 18 December 2018

IRA victims finally found - but family's five-decade ordeal continues

Members of the Lynskey family visit the spot where the human remains were found
Members of the Lynskey family visit the spot where the human remains were found
Members of the Lynskey family visit the spot where the human remains were found
Joe Lynskey, left, was killed and buried by the IRA in 1972

Tom Brady and Ed Carty

The remains of two of the 'IRA Disappeared' are believed to have been unearthed in a Meath bog during a search for the body of former monk Joe Lynskey.

However, the heartache is continuing for Mr Lynskey's family who visited the remote scene last night thinking that the wait to give him a proper burial was finally over after 43 years.

Instead, gardaí had to inform them that the bodies were likely to be those of Kevin McKee and Séamus Wright, who also vanished in 1972.

The excavation of farmland in Coghalstown, Co Meath, is set to continue after the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) said that it was always the belief that there were three bodies in that area.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said last night that she hoped it will prove possible to locate all the remains that it is believed may be in the vicinity.

Mr Wright, from Belfast, was murdered by his former IRA colleagues who accused him of being a British Army agent and a member of the Military Reaction Force, an undercover unit.

He was married and 25 years old when he went missing on October 2, 1972.

It is reported that he was held prisoner for six weeks in South Armagh before he was shot dead.

Mr McKee, also from Belfast, was murdered having faced similar accusations. He was just 17 years old and had become engaged to his girlfriend shortly before he went missing.

The first set of remains was found yesterday afternoon, leading the family of Joe Lynskey, abducted and murdered by the IRA in August 1972, to travel to the scene.

His niece Maria issued a statement saying: "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. Our thoughts are with the other families whose loved ones remain disappeared."

However, shortly before 9pm last night it emerged that a second set of human remains were found.

It is understood they were 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 discovery, the 11th by the ICLVR, was made near the centre of the six-hectare site which was reclaimed from bogland for a farm in the 1980s and used as pasture since.

The ICLVR brought in a sniffer dog late last year as part of efforts to try to detect signs of human remains on the land and teams have been carrying out more detailed surveys and digs since March.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald had said she hoped the discovery would allow another of the families 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."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who has repeatedly been criticised for not doing more to help find the Disappeared, made an appeal for anyone with information 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.

Jon Hill, senior investigator with the ICLVR, said that they had tried to prepare the Lynskey family for every eventuality.

"It's such a difficult process. There are no guarantees, it's something that we always try to impress on the families."

DNA tests will be carried out on the bodies in the comings days as part of the formal identification process before they are released to their families.

Irish Independent

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