Belfast Telegraph

'Now is the time to heed Billy McConville's plea for justice'

Priest urges authorities to act over abuse probe

Ivan Little

A priest has told mourners at the funeral of tragic Belfast man Billy McConville, who was abused as a child after the IRA murdered and 'disappeared' his mother Jean McConville, that the authorities must immediately implement the findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse public inquiry.

And Fr Patrick McCafferty also urged people with information about the secret burial places of four other Disappeared, including SAS soldier Robert Nairac, to come forward.

Mr McConville (50) lost his battle against cancer only weeks after appearing at a rally in Belfast calling for justice for victims of state and church abuse like himself.

He broke down as he revealed that he was dying and that any compensation would be too late for him.

But the father-of-four, who was abused at Rubane House in Kircubbin, Co Down, run by brothers from the De La Salle religious order, said politicians at Stormont must get the power-sharing government up and running again to help other victims.

Among the mourners at the funeral at St Paul's Church on the Falls Road yesterday were Newcastle man Sam Adair and several other abuse victims, who, like Mr McConville, had testified at the HIA inquiry.

Fr McCafferty said: "Love and a passion for justice led Billy to stand with other victims of institutional abuse and to raise his voice, along with theirs, against the evils perpetrated against them, demanding justice and redress.

"There are those with the power to implement the findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse public inquiry."

And Fr McCafferty said they must do so immediately as a matter of urgency, as a response to Billy McConville's appeal at the rally just a few weeks ago in the last days of his life.

He continued: "He stood in front of the City Hall, hardly able to walk and he appealed for justice. They must immediately respond to this cry.

"We are well aware of the horror of abuse to which Billy and the others were subjected, by those who had a most grave duty and responsibility, before God, to provide safety, loving care and nurturing affection, to vulnerable little children, who had lost their father and mother in such quick succession."

He added: "The sufferings inflicted on these innocents must never be forgotten."

He said all of society had an obligation to make reparation to the victims of abuse, who he described as 'all of these sisters and brothers of ours, who were so deeply wounded during their tender years'.

Fr McCafferty also used his homily to denounce the terrorists who abducted Jean McConville from her 10 children in December 1972, calling her murder an act of "inexcusable wickedness which had plunged Billy and his brothers and sisters into a lifelong nightmare of terror and trauma".

The eight surviving McConville children were all present at the church where their mother's Requiem Mass was held in November 2003 and they heard the priest say: "We are very much aware of the series of devastating events that were the cause of such heartbreak and sorrow to the sons and daughters of Jean and Arthur McConville - to the entire McConville family.

"The whole world knows the name of a simple, ordinary Belfast mother who loved her children and who was cruelly taken away from them, murdered and secretly buried, in December 1972."

He praised the McConvilles for their relentless quest to find their mother, whose body was finally located on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth after a heavy storm exposed the remains in August 2003.

"The love of Jean McConville's children for their mother caused them not to rest, until her mortal remains were at long last recovered and fittingly honoured, with the dignity of Christian burial from this church," he said.

Fr McCafferty urged mourners to pray for other families who were still awaiting the return of their loved ones, including three other victims of the IRA, Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac, as well as Co Down woman Lisa Dorrian, who it's thought was murdered after a party in Ballyhalbert.

He said: "Even now, after many such appeals, let us all plead, once more, that anyone with information that would lead to the recovery of these loved ones' remains, please end the sufferings of the families of the remaining 'Disappeared'."

Protestant ministers the Rev Ruth Patterson and the Rev David Clements whose father, an RUC officer, was murdered by the IRA, were at the funeral along with members of the WAVE Trauma Centre and Margaret McGuckin from Savia, the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse. After the Requiem Mass, a group of footballers from a club associated with WAVE provided a guard of honour for Mr McConville, who helped run one of the sides.

After the burial at Milltown Cemetery, mourners gathered at the Wave Trauma Centre for a reception to remember Mr McConville, who Fr McCafferty said had never lost his sense of humour.

He added: "He faced death with great courage and great serenity. And he was 'slegging' right up to the end."

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