Belfast Telegraph

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield: I'm not confident all remaining Disappeared will be found

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield

The outgoing UK commissioner for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) has said he is "not terribly confident" all of the remaining three Disappeared victims will be found.

Kenneth Bloomfield, a former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, served in his role with the ICLVR since it was set up in 1999 to find the bodies of those murdered and secretly buried by paramilitaries during the Troubles.

All but three of the 16 victims who were clandestinely buried over the years have been found.

Most recently, the remains of Seamus Ruddy, who was murdered by the INLA in 1995, were found in a forest in France in 2017.

Others who have been found include Jean McConville, a west Belfast mother-of-ten who was abducted and killed in 1972, and Crossmaglen pensioner Charlie Armstrong, who was killed in 1981.

The three remaining Disappeared are Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Captain Robert Nairc. Sir Kenneth said he is "not terribly confident" all three will ever be located and some have a "great mystery" surrounding what became of them.

Joe Lynskey, a former monk, was one of the first to be killed and secretly buried by the IRA in the summer of 1972.

Teenager Columba McVeigh, from Co Tyrone, was murdered and buried in an unmarked grave in November 1975, while British soldier Captain Robert Nairac was abducted from a pub in south Armagh and killed in 1977.

Sir Kenneth said that he is proud of the work the Commission has done since 1999.

"We've always been hopeful, but if at the start they had said to us 'you will have brought all these bodies home except for [three]', we would have thought 'gosh, this is a great success'. And it has been," he told the BBC.

From left to right, Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac are the final three of the Disappeared to remain missing (PA)
From left to right, Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Robert Nairac are the final three of the Disappeared to remain missing (PA)

Asked if he is hopeful the remaining three victims will be found, Sir Kenneth said: "I think hopeful might be putting it a bit high. There's always been a great mystery about what happened to some of [the victims] and it was never quite cleared up."

Sir Kenneth referenced rumours Captain Nairac's body had been put through a mincer, which he described as "nonsense".

"I'm not terribly confident that we will eventually return all of them, but it's most moving to go, as I have done many times, to a funeral  when one of the bodies has been retrieved."

He said he was "amazed" at how much the Commission had achieved over the years and found it "odd" that the people who had been capable of carrying out murders and secret burials later found that very reputation to be an "albatross around their necks".

"These people have actually helped us. Senior figures in Sinn Fein have actually been very helpful to the Commission in terms of helping us to discover where these bodies are. Without their involvement in the process we would not have had any success at all - we would just have been blind-flying," he said.

Looking to the future, Sir Kenneth said Northern Ireland is now in a "much better place" than it was during the Troubles, a change evident in the progress made since his own home was destroyed by an IRA bomb attack in 1988.

"I never thought that on the morning I stood in the ruins of our house in Crawfordsburn, the place having been blown up, that I would later find myself sitting across the table from Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, which, of course, I came to do," he said.

"I'm just aching for [politicians] to get together again and get down to do the job we voted them in for."

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