IRA Disappeared victim Jean McConville’s murder should be treated as a “war crime”

IRA Disappeared victim Jean McConville’s murder should be treated as a “war crime”
News Letter
20 June 2013

Jean McConville’s IRA killers should stand trial at the Hague, her son has said.

Michael McConville, who was aged 11 when his mother was snatched from her west Belfast home more than 40 years ago, claimed her death should be treated a war crime.

“Those that took my mother away and senior Sinn Fein figures that supported them should be rounded up and made to stand trial at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, but that will never happen, not in this country,” he said.

Mrs McConville, a widowed mother-of-10 was one of 17 people abducted, killed and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.

She was dragged from her home at Divis flats by a gang of up to 18 IRA men and women in January 1972.

Her body was found more than three decades later at Shelling Beach, Co Louth in August 2003. Forensic tests revealed she had been badly beaten and shot in the back of the head.

The discovery was made by a member of the public.

Mr McConville, who spent five years in a children’s home separated from his siblings after his mother’s disappearance, said the family still had many unanswered questions.

“Apparently this man came across her body by accident; he found a rag and started digging with his kids’ bucket and spade and then he came across a human bone and when he dug some more he got her body.

“This is the official version but the family have always disputed this; I think it is too convenient. My mother was missing for over 30 years and her body just happened to be found on a beach by a man playing with his kids,” he added.

To date the bodies of 10 people – who became known as The Disappeared – have been recovered.

A further seven people including west Belfast IRA man Joe Lynskey, Brendan McGraw from Twinbrook and SAS-trained officer Captain Robert Nairac have never been found.

Writing in a new book alongside relatives of other victims, Mr McConville recalled the frantic moments he last saw his mother alive.

“A rap came to the door and a gang of men and women piled into the flat. They were looking for our mother and when they got her they tried to pull her outside. We were all crying and holding on to her so they stopped and tried to calm us down; they said that (his brother) Archie could go with her but when they got Archie and mother outside they told Archie to **** off. We looked from the balcony as they bundled her into a van. There were two cars with men and women in them, in total there was about 18 people who took my mother away. I have no idea why it took so many as she wasn’t a big woman.”

Former IRA man Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes, who led the 1981 hunger strike, claimed Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams had authorised the abduction of Jean McConville.

The allegations were made in a series of interviews which Hughes gave to a researcher for Boston College in 2001 and 2002 on the condition the material would not be publicised until after his death.

Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price, who died earlier this year, also alleged Mr Adams had been her IRA Officer Commanding during the early 1970s and specifically implicated him in the murder of Jean McConville.

Mr Adams, now a Louth TD, has always denied being a member of the IRA.

Meanwhile, a fourth search is being carried out in Co Monaghan for the body of Columba McVeigh who disappeared from Dublin in 1975.

Also, writing in the new book, his brother Oliver said more should be done to recover the bodies of those still missing.

“In my opinion Sinn Fein and the IRA need to answer for what they have done. They may have admitted to their sins, they may feel their conscience has been cleansed and that all of us will just go away in time but this is not over by a long shot. They need to recover all the bodies.

“We have all waited and suffered for long enough. I know there are people out there who know something. Gerry Adams once said that he was ‘prepared to do everything humanly possible to help recover Columba’s remains but he hasn’t. It’s obvious he was only paying lip service to the issue. If they put the same effort into finding the bodies of The Disappeared as they did into getting the political institutions up and running all the bodies would have been found by now,” Mr McVeigh said.

The Commission for the Location of Victims Remains was set up after the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement to obtain information, in confidentiality, which may lead to the location of the remains of victims.

Information provided to the commission cannot be used for a criminal prosecution and cannot be disclosed.

Kieran McGraw, whose 24-year-old brother Brendan went missing from Twinbrook in 1978, appealed for anyone with information about the Disappeared to come forward.

He said: “Our mother died in 2002 and I know Brendan’s disappearance had a massive impact on her. Mammy tried her best to conceal it outwardly but I knew she was suffering on the inside.

“It is immensely frustrating that our mother died before we could bring Brendan’s body home to Belfast for him to have a Christian burial.”

The book, The Disappeared Of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, will be launched at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre tomorrow at 11am.

A total of 17 people were acknowledged as Disappeared – abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries – during the Troubles.

In 1999, the British and Irish governments set up the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) to help co-ordinate searches.

To date, 10 bodies have been recovered.

They are:

:: Eugene Simons disappeared from Castlewellan in 1981. His body was recovered on May 24 1984 in a bog in Dundalk, Co Louth.

:: Eamonn Molloy disappeared in 1975. His body was recovered on May 28 1999 in a coffin at the Old Faughart Cemetery outside Dandily, Co Louth.

:: John McClory disappeared in 1978. His body was recovered on June 30 1999 at Colgagh, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan.

:: Brian McKinney disappeared in 1978. His body was recovered on June 30 1999 at Colgagh, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan.

:: Jean McConville disappeared in 1972. Her body was recovered on August 27 2003 at Shelling Beach, Co Louth.

:: Gareth O’Connor disappeared in 2003. His body was recovered on June 11 2005 at Victoria Quay, Newry Canal, Co Louth.

:: Danny McIlhone disappeared in 1981. His body was recovered on November 10 2008 at Blessingtown, Co Wicklow.

:: Charlie Armstrong disappeared in 1981. His body was recovered on July 29 2010 at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co Monaghan.

:: Gerry Evans disappeared in 1979. His body was recovered on October 15 2010 at Carrickrobin, Co Louth.

:: Peter Wilson disappeared in 1973. His body was recovered on November 2 2010 at Red Bay, Waterfoot, Glenariff, Co Antrim.

A further seven bodies remain to be found.

:: Joe Lynskey disappeared in 1972 from west Belfast. His case became prominent in December 2009 and was added to the list of Disappeared in 2010.

:: Kevin McKee disappeared in 1972 from west Belfast with Seamus Wright. A search conducted at Wilkingstown, Co Navan failed to locate his body.

:: Seamus Wright disappeared from west Belfast in 1972 with Kevin McKee.

:: Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975. Searches have been conducted at Emyvale Forest, Co Monaghan.

:: Captain Robert Nairac disappeared in 1977 from a south Armagh pub. He was murdered and secretly buried.

:: Brendan Megraw disappeared in 1978 from Twinbrook. Searches have been conducted in Oristown, Co Navan.

:: Seamus Ruddy disappeared in 1985 in Paris. His body has never been recovered despite a search being conducted in 1999 and again in 2008 at a forest near Rouen, France.