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We need closure for Disappeared families

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 18/11/2016

At the inquests in Dublin yesterday into two of those victims, something of the decades-long agonies suffered by the families of those killed and secretly buried was laid bare
At the inquests in Dublin yesterday into two of those victims, something of the decades-long agonies suffered by the families of those killed and secretly buried was laid bare

The murders by republicans of the 16 people who became known as The Disappeared were among the most heinous crimes carried out during the Troubles. Not only were the killings obviously wrong, but the killers added another level of vileness to their crimes, by leaving the families wondering what had happened to their loved ones.

At the inquests in Dublin yesterday into two of those victims, something of the decades-long agonies suffered by the families of those killed and secretly buried was laid bare. The inquest heard how the mother of teenager Kevin McKee tried to convince herself that he had run away to get married.

Facing up to the probable truth was just too horrible.

She used to walk the streets searching for her son and died in 2011 without ever knowing what happened to him and where he was buried. His final resting place was a bog in the Republic alongside another man killed at the same time.

As Kevin's sister told the court, the day republicans took Kevin away and killed him was the day they also took his mother, whose mental health deteriorated from then until her death.

Is it too much to hope that those responsible, if still alive, could read those words and at least find some trouble in their conscience?

The bodies of four of The Disappeared have still to be found. When, if ever, will their families get some closure and get their loved one's bodies returned?

The plight of Mrs McKee will find a resonance in thousands of Northern Ireland homes, where families are still searching for the truth about the murder of their loved ones.

They may have graves to visit, but there is still a void in their lives which can only be filled by some truth recovery mechanism. Many families may want to get justice for the deaths of their loves ones, but that grows more and more unlikely as time marches on. Certainly justice should be pursued, but to obtain truth is more of a possibility.

There are those, including Attorney General John Larkin, who believe that a line should be drawn under the past. That may have a certain cold logic about it, but it means ignoring the gnawing pain of relatives and survivors who continue to be dealt a very poor hand.

It also means that trauma will be handed down from generation to generation, festering and incapable of cure even by the passage of time. That is the real legacy of the past. Surely we can do better?

Belfast Telegraph

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