Families in poignant pilgrimage as bodies of IRA Disappeared removed
The families of two men who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA believe their 40-year torment could be at an end, they have said.
Two bodies discovered in a remote reclaimed bog in the Republic are thought to be those of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, who both vanished from west Belfast in October 1972.
Visiting the scene of a forensic search at a farm near Coghalstown in Co Meath, the families of both men said the discovery had given them hope.
"We hope that we can at last see an end to the torment that has lasted over 40 years and bring Seamus and Kevin home," they added in a joint statement.
The bodies will undergo DNA tests over the next few weeks.
The grave was found during a search on the site for Joe Lynskey, a former monk who also went missing from west Belfast in the same year.
The excavation is being carried out by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), which investigates the cases of the so-called Disappeared.
The Wright and McKee families, from Andersonstown, thanked the commission and "whoever provided information" that had led to the latest discovery.
"Without that information, this would never have happened," they said.
"While this will change the lives of our families, our thoughts are with the Lynskey family and all those who still wait for the news that their loved ones have been found. We pray for them."
Both families appealed for privacy over the coming weeks and months.
Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic investigator with the ICLVR, said that work to find Mr Lynskey would not end.
"Speculation at this stage is that these could be those two boys," he added. "We don't know and, obviously, it's too early to start jumping to conclusions. But if it turns out that it is Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, we will continue to search this site for Joe Lynskey."
Members of the Wright family were first on the site yesterday morning, spending several hours talking to ICLVR investigators and overlooking the grave area.
Some of the McKee family joined them later.
Mr Knupfer spoke of their conflicting emotions as they were shown the site.
"It's a mixture of sadness and elation," he said. "Sadness that it confirms, assuming that the identities are confirmed, that their loved ones were abducted and murdered, and then the elation that they will get some closure at the end of this."
Local priest John O'Brien was also on the farm to spend time with relatives.
And Mr Lynskey's niece Maria visited the site last night.
Post-mortem examinations will take place over the next few days.
The grave is believed to have been about one metre deep when it was dug. It has remained untouched ever since the two bodies were dumped on top of one another.
Seamus Wright (25) was in the IRA and was murdered by his former colleagues, who accused him of being a British Army agent and a member of the Military Reaction Force.
He was married and working as an asphalt layer when he was abducted on October 2, 1972.
Kevin McKee (17), who was also in the IRA, was abducted on the same day.