Crimes which cry out for justice
The abduction, murder and secret burial of Jean McConville is deservedly regarded as one of the most notorious killings of the Troubles. The circumstances of her death were horrendous enough, but the impact on the 10 young children she left behind was profound, as they were scattered into care.
Little wonder that today, 43 years later, the family still seek justice for this appalling crime. However, that looks more and more unlikely given the decision of the Public Prosecution Service not to charge three men, including Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, and four women in connection with the killing.
Of course, the McConville family are not alone in their pursuit of justice. In the year Jean McConville was murdered, 1972, some 496 other people were killed, and the death toll of the Troubles totalled more than 3,000 before the bloody conflict ended. The reason given for the PPS's decision - that the available evidence was insufficient to make the prospects of a conviction realistic - is one that can apply to so many of those 3,000-plus deaths.
The passage of time, fading recollections and the deaths of suspects and witnesses mean that hopes of bringing anyone before the courts fade year by year. The bereaved will continue to grow old and weary and continue to despair of ever getting the justice they yearn for and deserve.
That makes the case for some sort of truth and reconciliation process all the more compelling. It might not mean anyone serving time for even the most heinous of crimes, but at least it could shed some badly needed light on why people were killed, who ordered the murders and who committed them.
However, that process may well remain an aspiration rather than a realistic ambition. Those who skulked in ditches to carry out ambushes or abducted and killed innocent people are hardly likely to queue up to admit their grubby little crimes.
The bereaved remain the forgotten victims of the Troubles. Their demands for justice or closure by whatever means should be front and centre of the peace process, yet, shamefully, we have all failed to deliver for them. It is a stain on this society that families like the McConvilles are still pursuing justice which continues to be ever more elusive, and their cries of pain will continue to echo down the generations.