Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed the discovery of what appear to be the remains of Danny McIlhone, a victim of the conflict who was killed by the IRA in 1981.
Mr McIlhone is one of a handful of the conflict’s “disappeared”, whose remains were not recovered for a variety of reasons.
The IRA admitted in a statement in 1999 it had taken Mr McIlhone for questioning about stolen IRA weapons but that he had been killed in a struggle with those who were holding him.
As the McIlhone family in Belfast began what could be a long wait for a positive identification of the remains, Mr Adams extended his condolences.
“The apparent discovery of Danny McIlhone’s remains will come as a great relief for his family,” he said. “It is also evidence that republicans continue to work diligently on this important issue. It will also be an encouragement to the other families who are still hoping that the remains of their loved ones will be found. I hope that the McIlhone family will now get the closure they deserve.”
The McIlhone family said in a statement: “We hope and pray for good news. We also ask the media to respect our privacy and stay away from the family.”
It has not been revealed if the IRA passed new information to the commission organising the searches for the disappeared. However Geoff Knupfer, an expert who is helping with the searches, has said the IRA is supportive of its work.
The same hillside was searched for 11 weeks in 1999 and 2000 without success.
CALL FOR UN TRUTH ROLE
Meanwhile, Mr Adams has warned that a British-appointed so-called truth panel “is not going to get to the truth”.
With just weeks to go to the publication of the report by the Britain’s “Consultative Group on the Past” -- headed by the former vice-chairman of the Police Board, Denis Bradley, and the former Anglican Primate of All Ireland, Robin Eames -- the Sinn Féin President called for a more realistic approach to the issue of truth recovery.
“It’s our very strong view that none of the combatants groups, or none of the partisan elements to this, can adjudicate over what happened,” the West Belfast MP said.
“My strong view is that what the Eames-Bradley Group should be actually recommending is that an international agency like the United Nations should establish a process to meet the needs of truth recovery,” Mr Adams said yesterday.
He has already called for an Independent International Truth Commission to be established, which he said would be supported by “all relevant parties”.
But republican participation will depend on how any commission is established and what role the state will play in any truth process.
Yesterday the Sinn Féin leader said: “What I do know is that a commission established by the British Government and answerable and accountable to the British Government is not going to get to the truth any more than any process established by any of the other partisan elements.
“I mention the United Nations because that takes it entirely out of the local or indeed the Anglo-Irish element. It brings in an outside influence, experience and protocol,” he continued.
“This is still very, very personal and hurtful for everybody involved and that’s why it’s important that people who clearly don’t have an axe to grind and don’t have a truth to cover up are brought into this,” he added.