IRA murder victim Kevin McKee laid to rest 43 years after his disappearance
Cruelly separated for 43 years, a mother and her missing son now finally rest together.
Kevin McKee was just 17 years old when he was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA. For four decades, until her death in 2012, his mother Mary waited for her son to come home - alive or dead.
Yesterday Mr McKee, one of the so-called Disappeared, was finally buried beside her at Blaris cemetery in Lisburn.
As family and friends gathered outside St Peter's Cathedral on the Falls Road in Belfast, two white doves were released into the air, symbolising that he and his mother were at peace at last.
The teenager's sisters, who helped carry his coffin into the cathedral for requiem mass, clutched photographs of both him and their mother.
Other mourners held single red roses.
"This (Christian burial) is happening 43 years late but it is still so important that we do it. It is important for Kevin and for his family that they are given the chance to grieve publicly and acknowledge the awful tragedy his murder and secret burial was," Fr Michael Murtagh told mourners.
"We remind ourselves how this affected each of his family members, those living and those dead, especially his late mother Mary.
"We acknowledge the 43 years of pain, of wondering, of uncertainty and not knowing what had happened. We acknowledge that at times there were very few to turn to and it was a lonely road for them to travel."
Mr McKee, from west Belfast, was remembered as a keen footballer, budding artist and devoted older brother.
His disappearance took its toll on each family member, the priest said.
Mr McKee became one of the Disappeared in 1972. He was shot by the IRA on suspicion he was working as a British agent.
His remains, and the remains of Seamus Wright, were found in a single shallow grave on reclaimed bog land in Coghalstown, Co Meath, and formally identified earlier this month.
Mr McKee is one of 16 people officially listed as the Disappeared - victims murdered and secretly buried by republicans during one of the most shameful chapters of the IRA's killing campaign.
The remains of 12 of the victims have been recovered and formally identified to date following searches by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains. Their names, and the names of those yet to be found, echoed throughout the cathedral yesterday as a candle for each was carried to the alter.
Members of the McKee family were joined by relatives of the other Disappeared victims, including Michael McConville whose mother Jean was also murdered and secretly buried.
Commending Mr McKee's family for their resilience, Fr Murtagh said: "Their perseverance along with that of so many others who's loved ones disappeared have brought us all to this point in history."
The bodies of Mr McKee and Seamus Wright were found unexpectedly during a search for another of the Disappeared, Joe Lynskey.
The funeral of Mr Wright is due to take place in west Belfast today.