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Funeral arrangements for 'Disappeared' pair found in Co Meath bogland

Published 08/09/2015

Families of two of the IRA Disappeared look on as two sets of human remains are removed from a reclaimed bog in Coghalstown, Co Meath.
Families of two of the IRA Disappeared look on as two sets of human remains are removed from a reclaimed bog in Coghalstown, Co Meath.

The families of two men who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA are making funeral arrangements after DNA tests were completed.

The bodies of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee were recovered from a shallow grave on reclaimed bogland in June during a dig to find a third man killed and Disappeared by the Provos.

Tests on the remains have been ongoing throughout the summer, with Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) confirming they had been formally identified.

Sir Ken Bloomfield and Frank Murray, commissioners of the ICLVR - which coordinates liaisons with former terrorists, the dig and recovery operations, said the remains will be released to relatives in the coming days.

"The thoughts of everyone in the commission are with the Wright and McKee families at this difficult time," they said.

Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course by the Wright and McKee families.

The two IRA victims were unearthed on a farm near Coghalstown, Co Meath, after laying undisturbed for about 40 years in a shallow grave - one body on top of the other.

The pair vanished from Belfast in October 1972.

When originally dug by terrorists, the grave is thought to have been about one metre deep in the middle of a bog measuring at least 60,000 square metres.

The ICLVR was on site for several months this year searching for the remains of former Cistercian monk Joe Lynskey, also a victim of the IRA's "Disappeared" tactic, when the other bodies were found.

It is also only a few miles from where the body of Brendan Megraw was dug up last year following searches at Oristown, Co Meath.

Separate inquests will be held in front of Dr Brian Farrell, coroner for Dublin city.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the DNA identifications will bring an end to the uncertainty for the McKee and Wright families.

"I want to thank everyone who has helped in the search for the remains of those who were killed and secretly buried by the IRA," he said.

"Republicans have co-operated fully with the commission and we now need to continue to do our utmost to bring closure for the remaining families.

"Today's confirmation is an important step toward achieving this."

The searches for Mr Lynskey have to date been unsuccessful.

But the commission insist that the discovery of the two other bodies a couple of hundred yards from a country road through Coghalstown gives them encouragement that they are looking in the right area.

The dig began in March this year on six hectares (15 acres) of former bog.

The former Cistercian monk was abducted and murdered by the IRA in August 1972 but th e terror group only admitted his disappearance in 2010.

Mr Wright, 25, was married and was also from Belfast

He was in the IRA and was also murdered in 1972. His former colleagues accused him of being a British Army agent.

Mr McKee, again from Belfast, was in the IRA and also murdered in the same year.

He was alleged to have been a British Army agent and was interrogated and murdered by the terror group.

The ICLVR, which was set up by the British and Irish governments in the wake of the Good Friday peace agreement, is tasked with investigating the cases of 16 people killed and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles.

To date the remains of 12 people have been recovered.

A 17th Disappeared victim is Gareth O'Connor who was murdered in 2003. His body was recovered on June 11 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth.

Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic investigator with the ICLVR, said the dig will continue over the next few weeks.

"We certainly have not given up hope," he said.

"We are satisfied that the information we have received is genuine and we will continue to work with it."

Mr Knupfer and the commission have remained in regular contact with the Lynskey family who he said have shown "remarkable forbearance" since they were told a body had been discovered only to have their hopes dashed.

The commission chief, who also helped find the bodies of the victims of Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, said information is coming to investigators all the time.

And he renewed the appeal for more.

"We don't anticipate being prevented from completion from the onset of bad weather. We are just completing the bottom of the field and then returning to the top in the next few days. We are still hopeful that we will find him," Mr Knupfer said.

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