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Primate in plea for help to end agony of Disappeared families

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's troubled past must be dealt with before we can build a shared, peaceful future, the leader of Ireland's Catholics has warned.

Archbishop Eamon Martin's words came at the annual Palm Sunday Mass for the families of the Disappeared at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh.

Some 17 families were left without the remains of their loved ones after they were murdered by paramilitaries who secretly buried the bodies. Some have since been recovered, but four republican victims remain missing, while loyalists have yet to give up the body of Co Down woman Lisa Dorrian.

The all-Ireland Primate made a fresh appeal for information and suggested the Church could play a role in accepting information and sensitively passing it on.

"I appeal again to the conscience of anyone who can help with the cases of Joe Lynskey, Robert Nairac, Seamus Ruddy and Columba McVeigh to bring even the slightest clues to the commissioners' attention so the agonising wait of the remaining families can be shortened and their loved ones can at last have a Christian burial," he told the congregation in his homily.

The archbishop paid tribute to families whose loved ones have been found but continue to support those still searching.

"Together we still gather each Palm Sunday, hoping against hope, that even at this late stage someone will come forward with fresh or more precise information to help the Independent Commission with its search," he said.

"There is still so much to be done to uncover the truth so that the full stories of what happened during the Troubles can be told; that the dead can rest peacefully in their graves; that the bereaved and injured can find healing; and, that a just and lasting foundation can be put in place on which an honest and shared future can be built for us all."

And he appealed for help from those involved in the murders.

"There must be so many people walking around today who know in their hearts that the information they have locked down inside them is capable of unlocking the uncertainty and grief of families," he said. "Those who were involved must, of course, find their own peace with God and with society. For our part, we need to find a mechanism of truth and information retrieval which will allow more of these people to come forward."

On Saturday the family of Margaret McKinney, one of the founders of Families of the Disappeared, planted a rose bush in her memory.

Her son Brian (22) was killed and secretly buried by the IRA in 1978, and remained missing until 1999. Mrs McKinney died in January aged 85 years. Her family and supporters gathered at Wave Trauma Centre in Belfast to sing songs in her memory.

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