Belfast Telegraph

The Disappeared: Families speak of heartache in a deeply moving documentary

Journalist Darragh MacIntyre reveals some families are still too scared to talk

By Rebecca Black

An old pair of shoes is all the family of Brian McKinney have of him.

His mother Margaret holds the faded white and blue striped trainers, recalling how they were the first sign of her son, just a couple of shovels in to the dig for him in 1999.

His mouth organ was also found.

"He loved playing the mouth organ. Oh God, how could they do that to him?" she says softly in a powerful documentary to be screened tonight.

Brian (22) disappeared from Andersonstown in May 1978. His remains were found, following a tip-off, in a double grave with his friend John McClory at the bogland at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co Monaghan – two of the so-called Disappeared whose remains have returned.

The pair had admitted using IRA guns in a robbery, but had given back the stolen money. They were disappeared anyway.

The Disappeared is a powerful, heartbreaking piece of television that moved many journalists invited to a preview at the BBC last week to tears.

You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Crossmaglen pensioner Kathleen Armstrong's dignity.

Her husband Charlie was disappeared in August 1981 on his way to taking an elderly neighbour to Mass. Initially, rumours were put about, such as he had been spotted chatting up two women in a bar. His family checked all these out but found nothing. Kathleen tells of how she walked the roads of south Armagh every Sunday for 29 years searching for him. The IRA never admitted responsibility, but the family received an anonymous note and map which were inaccurate.

Later maps eventually led to them finding his remains in 2010 – just three miles from his home.

"I was glad to have him back," Kathleen whispers.

Her daughter, Anna McShane, said her mother cannot go to where he was found because she doesn't like to think of him there where he should never have been, but prays at his graveside. She is filmed thanking her husband at his grave for all the times he helped her down the steps of their chapel.

Co Louth man John Garland describes how he discovered Jean McConville's body one day while walking along Shelling Hill beach, after spotting material in the sand. When he realised it was human remains, he ran to the car for holy water to bless the site and said a prayer.

Journalist Darragh MacIntyre reveals some families, even to this day, are still too scared and did not take part in the programme for this reason.

While some of the families have had their agony lessened by the discovery of their loved ones, seven others are still missing, buried in lonely spots across Ireland.

They are Columba McVeigh; Joe Lynskey; Seamus Wright; Kevin McKee; Captain Robert Nairac; Brendan Megraw and Seamus Ruddy.

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