BBC airs heartbreaking account of Northern Ireland’s disappeared

Relatives of the 'disappeared' have given heart wrenching accounts of the moments their loved ones were taken in a new BBC documentary.

Relatives of the ‘disappeared’ – those abducted, murdered and buried secretly by republicans during the troubles in Northern Ireland – have given heart wrenching accounts of the moments their loved ones were taken.

As part of a programme for the BBC, screened last night in Northern Ireland and across the UK on BBC Four this evening, the children of Jean McConville recall the moment that their widowed mother was taken from their house.

Ms McConville’s remains were found washed up on a beach in the Irish republic in 2003.

Speaking to the documentary, one of her 10 children, Agnus said:

“We could hear her squealing, still squealing and looked over at the banister on Divis Flats (in west Belfast) and there she was getting thrown into the back of a van.

“That was the last time that we saw her.”

In his contribution, Agnes’ brother Michael recalls the crying and squealing as Ms McConville’s children wrapped themselves around her as she was so brutally abducted. He explains:

“All of us were just wrapped around her, all crying and squealing.

“I remember one of the girls (who abducted her) talking, who I knew because she hadn’t got a mask on, she used to be a neighbour of ours, her and her sister were there.

“They kept trying to calm us down, because they knew us and they knew us by name.”

Turning the spotlight onto the role played by Gerry Adams in the abduction, the Sinn Fein leader denied any involvement, telling the programme:

“I had no act or part to play in either the abduction, the killing or burial or Jean McConville or indeed any of these other people.”

His comments however contradict those of the Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes, once a close friend of Mr Adams, who has previously said:

“There’s only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein.”

Adam’s comments were also attacked by his political opponents on both side of the border, with UUP Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy accusing the Sinn Fein leader of suffering from ‘grotesque amnesia’ which ‘adds to the suffering of the families’.

A spokesperson for Fianna Fail in the Irish Republic commented:

“For a long time we have called on Sinn Fein and its leader Gerry Adams to be honest about the past and to account for their activities. We look forward to seeing this programme and hope that it will aid the efforts of PIRA victims, especially the families of the Disappeared, to finally get to the truth of what happened to their loved ones.”

With seven people remaining ‘disappeared’, the documentary heard also from a relative of one of them, Columba McVeigh, a 19-year-old from Donaghmore in County Tyrone, who was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1975.

Her sister, Dympna, told the programme:

“I never did anything to the IRA, neither did my mum, so why are they torturing us? Thirty-eight years on and they’re still torturing us and that’s what it is. How would you feel if it was your brother?

“I’ve got an image in my head of Columba standing there crying, looking into a hole. Nobody got to say goodbye to him.”

The programme is available to watch on the BBC’s IPlayer.

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