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Thursday 14 December 2017

Sinn Fein admits ‘‘massive injustice’’ done to ‘the disappeared’ by IRA terror

A SENIOR Sinn Fein leader has admitted that the IRA perpetrated a "massive injustice" on victims it abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles.

Pat Doherty, MP and MLA for West Tyrone, urged ex-paramilitaries to give up any information about the whereabouts of makeshift graves for the remaining so-called Disappeared.

"There has been a massive injustice committed by republican forces in the North during the conflict," the former Sinn Fein vice-president said.

"The benefit that can be done to resolve it, needs to be done."

The call swiftly followed a warning by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) that it has now run out of clues in its search for seven bodies yet to be found.

Frank Murray, who heads up the ICLVR along with Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, signalled its work could come to a halt next month because of a lack of new information.

"Are we optimistic for the future? I don't know whether we can say with confidence that we are," he said.

"We have one further search project to undertake - probably in April in Co Monaghan.

"But the harsh reality is, that after that we run out of road on information. We have no information to point us to where we might conduct further searches."

Mr Murray said further details on the whereabouts of the remaining Disappeared was vital, if the commission was to continue.

"Without that we just run out of business, I'm afraid," he said.

More than 52 acres of land - mostly bleak, barren and remote bogland - has been excavated so far by the commission, set up after the Good Friday Agreement.

That is the equivalent of 17 Croke Parks, said Sir Kenneth.

The lands were all meticulously mapped out and painstakingly searched using ground-breaking scientific methods.

Nine bodies have so far been recovered.

The remains of Joseph Lynskey, Seamus Wright, Kevin McKee, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac, Brendan Megraw and Seamus Ruddy have yet to be located.

Geoff Knupfer, the investigative scientist leading the search, acknowledged "enormous support" from the IRA.

But he said there were individuals yet to come forward.

Some of those involved in the disappearances, many stretching back to the 1970s, were now in the US and may be afraid their family, friends and neighbours would find out about their past, he said.

"They may be pillars of society - their families might not know what they did in their youth," he added.

But he insisted all information passed to the commission was confidential and could not be used for prosecutions in any jurisdiction.

Mr Knupfer, who helped find the bodies of the victims of Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, said several people were involved in every disappearance investigated.

They were all major logistical operations, he added.

Sir Kenneth stressed that a flurry of recent discoveries, compared to earlier years, meant it was impossible to write off more progress, if more clues were passed on.

The Irish government alone has spent four million euro (£3.3 million) over the past six years on searches.

Both governments have made it clear there is no question of cutting back on resources, the ICLVR said before a parliamentary committee in Dublin.

Sinn Fein's Sean Crowe told the committee he was uncomfortable with the commission's presentation, which he said did not fully reflect the horror and terror victims went through, and the heartbreak of their families.

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