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Past still haunts path to peace

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 13/04/2015

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

One of the most shocking stories of the Troubles was the abduction and murder of Jean McConville by the Provisional IRA. The mother-of-10 was taken forcibly from her young family just before Christmas in 1972, and the brutality and injustice of her death has not lost any of its impact.

In today's Belfast Telegraph her daughter Helen McKendry describes in disturbing detail the savage treatment of Mrs McConville. This was compounded by the long years during which her remains lay in an unmarked grave on a lonely beach before being found in 2003.

Helen McKendry firmly believes that the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams gave the order for the abduction of her mother, and she wants her day in court. Mr Adams has consistently denied any involvement in this abduction.

In today's paper we also carry a story about accusations that the Provisional IRA covered up the deaths of some 19 "child soldiers" aged between 12 and 16. The names of some of these children, including Cathleen McCartland, who was 12, and Eileen Mackin, who was 14, have been removed from republican war memorials or records.

There is a common thread between these two major reports - about child "terrorists" who were themselves victims, and also the McConville murder - and this is the need for knowledge about the past.

The murder of Jean McConville had a terrible effect on her children, and who could deny that Helen McKendry's life has been lost to the mob who abducted her mother? She has grown even to look like her mother physically, and she is a haunting reminder of the woman she still mourns, and for whom she still seeks justice.

We deserve answers. No matter how "brave" these people believe themselves to be, they lack the courage to admit: "I dragged a mother-of-10 from her home and murdered her".

For all the criticism directed at the Stormont administration, there has been progress on many fronts, but dealing properly with the past has remained elusive. There is an onus on the institutions to deal with this major issue, this ocean of human emotion.

We must find a way to get to the truth, otherwise the pain quite understandably will continue to pass down the generations, and the search for a lasting peace will continue for a long time to come.

Belfast Telegraph

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