Campaigner for Disappeared Margaret McKinney was a 'remarkable woman'
Tributes have been paid to Margaret McKinney, whose son Brian was one of the Disappeared, and who campaigned tirelessly for decades to find his body.
Mrs McKinney died on Tuesday at the age of 85. She had been suffering from pneumonia and was surrounded by her family.
Her son Brian was abducted by the IRA in 1978, murdered and secretly buried. Of the 16 Disappeared, the remains of 12 have been recovered.
Mrs McKinney became one of the founding members of Families of the Disappeared, and her son's body was finally recovered in 1999.
Along the way she enlisted the help of former US president Bill Clinton, who pressed for the establishment of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR)
Yesterday her daughter Linda Pywell said the family were "shell-shocked" by her death, adding "she was such a big character and we'll really miss her".
Her funeral will take place on Saturday in Belfast at St Matthias' Church on the Glen Road at 10am, followed by interment at Milltown cemetery where she will be laid to rest beside her son Brian and late husband William.
"She was such a natural," said Linda.
"She never stood up with a speech ready or a plan. Whoever she met - whether it was Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, Mo Mowlam or the ordinary man in the street - she just told her story from her heart. That never failed to move anybody." Linda said that initially after her brother's disappearance, her mother "went to pieces" before getting help from the WAVE Trauma Centre.
An invitation to the White House in 1998 proved a crucial step in finding her son.
"She was in the Oval office with Hillary and Bill," said Linda. "He sat and listened to her and when she finished he just looked her in the eye and put his hand in hers and said, 'I promise you, I will help you find your son'. Those words went to her heart."
WAVE CEO Sandra Peake described Mrs McKinney as "a truly remarkable woman who was instrumental in bringing the issue of the Disappeared from the silent fringes into the peace process itself".
In a joint statement, Sir Ken Bloomfield and Frank Murray - the ICLVR's British and Irish commissioners - described her as a "tower of strength". They added: "Anyone who met Margaret McKinney could not fail to have been impressed by her humanity and her devotion to the cause of the Families of the Disappeared."