Belfast Telegraph

Anguished family of murdered Columba McVeigh release his last letter

By Adrian Rutherford

A young man murdered and secretly buried by the IRA almost 40 years ago had raised concerns about the violence gripping Northern Ireland in a poignant last letter to his mother.

Columba McVeigh was only 17 when he was abducted while working in Dublin.

His body has never been found.

Yesterday it emerged that a search of bogland in Co Monaghan, where it is believed his remains are buried, had ended without success.

It is the sixth time the area has been searched in the last 14 years.

As part of a fresh appeal for information the McVeigh family has released a letter sent by Columba to his mother just before he went missing in 1975. In it he describes seeing the funeral of Irish President Eamon de Valera in Dublin.

Mr McVeigh also wrote about the escalating violence in Northern Ireland and his native Donaghmore.

"I hear things are rough up there now and trouble up around Donaghmore-Dungannon," he wrote.

His final words to his mother were: "Well I'll say bye for now. God bless and take care. From your big son, Columba."

Mr McVeigh was last seen in November 1975.

The IRA later admitted killing him, claiming that he had confessed to being an informer – an allegation strongly denied by the McVeigh family.

It is widely believed his body is buried in bogland at Bragan near Emyvale, but six searches of the area have ended in failure.

His brother, Oliver McVeigh, said the latest setback was "devastating".

He has appealed for more information to be given to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) – the organisation set up to help find the so-called Disappeared.

"There are people out there who have the information and they haven't come forward and I can't understand why," he said. "They have nothing to gain by keeping their secret and nothing to lose by telling the commission.

"Why do they continue to torture a family like this?"

Columba's sister Dympna added: "Our mother went to her grave unable to tend the grave of her son. Let us bring Columba home and end this torment."

Previous searches at Bragan were carried out in 1999, 2003, and 2012. The latest began on September 17. The ICLVR said more than 14 acres of ground has been excavated and searched.

FACTFILE

The Disappeared are people who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles. Nine of the 16 who went missing have been found. Six others, including Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac, a British soldier kidnapped by the IRA in 1977, have still to be found. In 1999, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was set up.

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