Timing?

While mass graves are being filled after the catastrophic events of the weekend, Mark Durkan has confirmed that he has written to the two Governments to Call for more help to find ‘disappeared’. Unfortunate timing, insensitivity or opportunism ?The British and Irish Governments were today urged to do more to help locate the burial sites of people abducted and murdered by the IRA during the Troubles.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan confirmed he had written to both governments urging them to reassure relatives the commission tasked with locating their loves ones’ remains would continue its work.

The Foyle Assembly member said: “Although many think that enormous efforts have been made to find the bodies of the disappeared, in fact this has not always happened.

“In one case the dig to find the body of one of the disappeared lasted just six hours.

“The families are also concerned that not enough has been done to find new technologies that would make it easier to locate their loved ones’ bodies.

“They also fear that the work of the international commission to find the bodies of the disappeared is winding up.

“And they are angry that the IRA has not provided accurate information on where the bodies are buried. They are convinced that with greater will on all sides, the bodies can be found and given a proper Christian burial.”

In October 2003, the IRA apologised for the grief suffered by the families of the disappeared in Northern Ireland.

However, despite receiving information from the Provisionals, the Commission for the Recovery of Victims’ Remains has managed to locate only some of the bodies of the disappeared.

In August 2003 the corpse of 37-year-old mother of ten, Jean McConville, was discovered after a series of extensive searches of Shelling Hill Beach in Co Louth.

She was abducted and murdered by the IRA after she went to the aid of a British soldier wounded outside her front door in 1974.

In 1999, investigators recovered the bodies of Eamon Molloy from north Belfast in a coffin in a Co Louth graveyard, and John McClory and Brian McKinney from west Belfast, whose remains were found after weeks of digging in a bog in Co Monaghan.

The body of 17-year-old Columba McVeigh from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, who was kidnapped in 1975, has not been recovered despite searches in Co Monaghan.

The commission has also carried out digs for the bodies of Danny McIlhone from Belfast at Ballynultagh in Co Wicklow, Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright, also from Belfast, in Coghallstown near Navan in Co Meath and Brendan Megraw, from Belfast, at Oristown near Kells in Co Meath.

In May 2002, searches in Co Monaghan for the body of missing 57-year-old Co Armagh man Charlie Armstrong proved unsuccessful.

Mr Durkan said today the governments had to reassure relatives that the commission was still operating and would meet them.

He added: “The families need to know from the two governments and from Sinn Féin that finding these bodies will be a priority in the coming year.

“Being able to give a relative a Christian burial is the most basic of rights. Yet for years the families have been denied this right.

“This year, we must all hope that their rights will be respected and the bodies will at last be found.”