'Disappeared' victim of IRA buried
The mother of a man "Disappeared" by the IRA more than 30 years ago died before her prayers for his return could be fulfilled, funeral mourners were told.
Brendan Megraw, 23, was kidnapped from his Belfast home and murdered by republicans in 1978. His body was discovered recently in the Irish Republic after lengthy forensic searches and a tireless campaign by relatives.
The creative and musical motorcycle fanatic was one of over a dozen people taken by the organisation during the conflict. Six have yet to be found - including British soldier Robert Nairac.
Mr Megraw's mother Brigid died in 2002, a priest said. The victim's brother Kieran said: "Today is a day of sadness and joy but he is reunited with his family and thankfully now can rest in peace with mum and dad and his brothers."
He said, faltering, that it was a tremendous feeling to finally bring his loved one back to Belfast. "What is the word? It is relief and joy and freedom, freedom from the frustration of not finding him, of not having him home, we know now he is home."
Mr Megraw was found by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR). The commission, set up by the British and Irish governments following the Good Friday peace agreement, was tasked with investigating the cases of 16 people killed and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles. The Disappeared families count a 17th among their number, who died after the agreement.
US President Bill Clinton was among vocal advocates for the return of bodies. The funeral was held six weeks after Mr Megraw's remains were recovered in a remote bog at Oristown in rural Co Meath.
The newlywed was snatched by the IRA from his home in the Twinbrook area of west Belfast in April 1978. He was awaiting the birth of a daughter when dragged away by members of the paramilitary group and killed.
His remains were returned to Kieran's house in west Belfast on Wednesday. Struggling to control his emotions he said: "To come along the motorway and come around that corner and see Divis Flats and Black Mountain...was tremendous."
The congregation applauded after his address. As well as his siblings Sean and Deirdre, were representatives from all the Disappeared families, a long line of fellow mourners, who lit small red candles with flickering flames, representing their loved ones.
Among those found are Jean McConville, a west Belfast mother. Police probing her disappearance questioned Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams at length earlier this year but he was released without charge.
Six people still missing were abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. They include undercover soldier Captain Robert Nairac. He was kidnapped from a bar at Drumintee in south Armagh in May 1977 before being killed.
Mr Megraw had recently been married. He was about to start a job working on ships, Fr Aidan Brankin said. He told the congregation that Mr Megraw's mother Brigid had died. "She prayed for this day, when Brendan was found and he could have a funeral and be buried in the family grave.
"Unfortunately, she didn't get to see that prayer answered, but it is answered today. She wasn't just praying for Brendan. She prayed for all those who had been taken.
"She shared in the joy of other families of the Disappeared when their loved ones were found. She shared their disappointments when a search proved unsuccessful.
"They became like an extended family, supporting, encouraging and praying for each other - putting out appeals for fresh information, even having their own song."
The piece, by Malachy Duffin, said they never disappeared from hearts. He sang: "You never disappeared, your memories grow fonder through the years. You were with us when our hearts ran out of tears, you never disappeared."
Fr Brankin said that Mr Megraw's family and friends were praying for those who are still missing, hoping that they too will soon be found.
The priest said Mr Megraw was a creative person, enjoying metal and woodwork.
"In the 70s, Brendan was very much into music and also his appearance - making sure every hair was in place before leaving the house, shoes were polished, ironing the crease on his trousers and - and then getting onto a motorbike. He loved bikes and especially enjoyed going over ramps - which were a lot bigger than the ones we have today."
He said prayer vigils and masses had been held for Mr Megraw near where he was buried in Oristown.
"Brendan, is finally getting the dignity of a funeral mass and today we pray for the happy repose of his soul. Among those November dead lists, his name is written many times along with all those who have loved us or who touched our lives with their love, their friendship and their faith."
Among those attending the funeral were commission members Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Frank Murray, appointed by the British and Irish Governments, as well as forensic investigators who found his body.
Former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan, nationalist SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Stormont MLA Alex Attwood, parish priest at Orristown Fr John O'Brien, bishops Michael Smith and Noel Treanor and former bishop Patrick Walsh were present as well as relatives of the other Disappeared. Mr Megraw was buried at St Joseph's graveyard in Glenavy.
Last week, the commission announced that preliminary searches for another victim had started close to the same rural bog. Specialist forensic investigators were scanning sections of land in the locality of the Oristown bog with radar for the remains of former west Belfast monk Joe Lynskey.
Mr Lynskey went missing in 1972 but it was only in 2010 when the IRA admitted to killing and secretly burying him. It is suspected two more of the disappeared, Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright, are buried in moorland a few miles from the Oristown bog in an area near Wilkinstown, Co Meath.
All information passed to the commission is confidential and cannot be used in criminal prosecutions.
Bishop Smith, Bishop of Meath, said: "It is a matter of deep regret to the parish of Oristown that such evil acts took place.
"One continues to hope that anyone with information that could help to locate the remains of other victims will come forward. This vital information, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, would relieve the anguish of the families who have suffered greatly."