By Gráinne Ní Aodha and Cillian Sherlock, PA
The families of the Disappeared met with the Minister for Justice and discussed an awareness campaign to help find missing loved ones.
The Disappeared are victims of the Troubles who were killed and secretly buried, with some yet to be found.
During the meeting, at Leinster House in Dublin, families thanked the minister for the Government’s financial support and suggested ways to continue efforts to search for victims.
Wave Trauma Centre boss Sandra Peake and the lead investigator and commissioners with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) also attended Wednesday’s meeting.
The ICLVR has 17 people on its list of the Disappeared and the remains of 11 people have been recovered through the Commission’s efforts, Simon Harris said.
Four people are yet to be found: Joseph Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire.
“I think what they really want is the Disappeared not to become the forgotten,” Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie told the PA news agency after attending the hour-and-a-half-long meeting.
“The request today was that the Disappeared are remembered in every conversation we have about Northern Ireland and continue to keep them at the top of the agenda.
“I think the Minister understands that this is a humanitarian issue, this is about human rights.
“This is about families wanting to bring their loved ones home and being denied that.”
Ms Currie said resources is not an issue but there were actions that could be taken on awareness and encouraging people to come forward with information, for example signage in relevant communities.
“There are people out there who know what has happened and, as of yet, they have not come forward.”
She added: “Time is of essence so we need to encourage those people to come forward and understand what is at stake and what this means to families.
Oliver McVeigh, the brother of 19-year-old Columba McVeigh, who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975, said the meeting gave them an opportunity to thank the government for supporting digs.
Investigators have searched parts of Bragan Bog in Co Monaghan in search of the Co Tyrone teenager’s body.
Oliver McVeigh told PA it was also an opportunity to put ideas forward, such as putting personalised physical signs in certain communities.
“It worked before with two of the Disappeared in Crossmaglen, and the people were found. There were signs in the town of Crossmaglen and we’re hoping to do the same in maybe Emyvale and Carrickroe.
“Put signs up that will be there until Columba is found. As soon as Columba is found they’ll come down again.
“It could touch people’s consciences.
“There may be people not coming forward but the consciences may kick in, hopefully, so we need to have local engagement.”
Michael McConville, the son of Disappeared victim Jean McConville, said the meeting was “positive” and “very good”.
The mother-of-10 was forced from her west Belfast home in December 1972. Her remains were found by a walker in August 2003 on a beach in Co Louth.
“The minister says he will keep backing us and keep bringing what we needed brought up,” Mr McConville said after the meeting.
“There are still bodies missing and that needs to be addressed. They need to be found and brought back to their loved ones.
“That’s all we want. We don’t want anything else. We want our loved ones’ bodies brought back.”
Mr Harris said the Government is “deeply committed to alleviating the suffering of victims” and said it will continue to support the efforts being made to find those who have not yet been found.
“We must always remember the Disappeared, and never forget that some families are still awaiting the return of their loved ones.
“Our resolve in Government to support the efforts to support the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains and the families of the Disappeared is as strong as ever.”
Mr Harris also commended the efforts of Wave Trauma Centre in supporting families and the ICLVR’s “tireless” and “difficult” work.
“There are people out there who still have information which would help the families,” he said.
“I would call on anyone with information that could help recover the remains of those still missing to pass that information to the Commission without delay, safe in the knowledge that it will be treated in the strictest confidence.”
The ICLVR was established by a 1999 agreement between the Irish and UK governments, jointly funded by both countries.
It can be contacted in confidence by telephone on 00800-55585500; by email at [email protected] or by post: ICLVR PO Box 10827.