The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams pre-empted this announcement somewhat when, after the PIRA statement rejecting the Police Ombudsman’s assessment on Jean McConville, he held a press conference to reveal that there had been meetings over the past 10 months between PIRA members, “primary sources” in the abductions and murders, and the forensic expert appointed by the British government. Today Secretary of State Peter Hain announced the government’s response to the recommendations by the forensic expert. – further reports here, and hereDespite Gerry Adams description of those involved in the meetings as “primary sources” – ie “people who were there when the killings took place – either transporting those who were killed, or in fact killed those who were killed or buried those who were killed.” it’s worth noting the description of those meetings by the government
In the course of this work the forensic expert met with IRA interlocutors in the hope of pinpointing the resting places of those victims who were not found when the Commission carried out its original excavations in 1999-2003.
Whoever those interlocutors were, the government are playing down the expectations of successful recovery of the bodies of those murdered.
The Secretary of State Peter Hain MP said: “Both the British and Irish Governments are committed to doing what they can to find the bodies of the Disappeared and bring some closure to the families.
“At the core of this tragedy we have a number of families grieving for the return of the remains of their loved ones and it is important that they are kept fully informed of the work of the Commission”.
The Secretary of State stressed that it is important not to raise unrealistic expectations, particularly in the light of a number of unsuccessful excavations in previous years.
From the NIO statement
The Commission delivered a report, based on the expert’s review, to the two Governments earlier this year. The Governments, following consideration of the report, have accepted its recommendations and have agreed to a series of key measures that will now be taken. These are:
– The retention of the forensic expert and the establishment of a project team to work as part of the Commission to take forward the report’s recommendations.
– The setting up of a PO Box and confidential telephone line which will allow people with information on the whereabouts of victims to share it with the ICLVR. These will be publicised through an advertising campaign.
– The carrying out of non-invasive surveys on all suspected gravesites, including examinations of all relevant contemporary mapping, forestry records and aerial photography of sites for comparison with current imagery and mapping by imagery analysts.
– The use of other experts/resources where beneficial, including existing ‘body disposal’ databases.
– The collection of DNA samples from the closest biological relatives of all those victims whose bodies are yet to be recovered. Any surviving medical and dental records will also be secured.
– The establishment of a family liaison officer and media contact point within the Commission.
In line with the report’s recommendations, physical excavation of gravesites will now only be undertaken if and where the Commission assesses there to be a good prospect of successful recovery of remains.[added emphasis]
Also from the NIO statement..
The full list of victims whom the IRA admitted to having killed and buried in unknown locations comprises:
On the morning that the ICLVR was set up, in May 1999, the remains of Eamon Molloy were left in a coffin in a graveyard in Faughart, County Louth.
The remains of Brian McKinney and John McClory were recovered in a site in Co. Monaghan. These were the only remains to be found directly as a result of excavations undertaken on the foot of information provided by IRA.
The remains of Jean McConville were discovered by members of the public on Shelling Hill beach in Co. Louth in 2003. IRA information had on a number of occasions previously indicated nearby Templeton beach as their location.
Over 85,000 square metres of land was excavated by An Garda Síochána in the course of this process.
Other cases examined by the expert include those of Charles Armstrong and Gerard Evans, who disappeared from Co. Armagh but for whom no-one has claimed responsibility; Robert Nairac who also disappeared from Co. Armagh, and Seamus Ruddy, who disappeared in France. Responsibility for Seamus Ruddy’s disappearance has been attributed to the INLA.
Given that these steps are to be set up within the remit of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains it’s probably a safe bet to say that the conditions on the use of any forensics retrieved in any subsequent charges, should they ever materialise, will remain in place.