Written Answers - Northern Ireland Issues

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 759 No. 1

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  110.  Deputy Micheál Martin  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, in view of  Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter   the fact that he has responsibility for policy on Northern Ireland, if there has been any developments in relation to the disappeared in Northern Ireland; if this was discussed at recent meetings in Dublin or London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13817/12]

  449.  Deputy Micheál Martin  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   asked the Minister for Justice and Equality  Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter   if there have been any developments in relation to the disappeared in Northern Ireland; if this issue was discussed at recent meetings in Dublin or London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12197/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 449 together.

The House will be aware that over the course of the conflict in Northern Ireland a number of people were abducted and murdered by paramilitary groups, and then buried in secret locations. They have become known as “the disappeared”.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains was established by the Irish and British Governments in 1999 as one of the actions taken in the context of the Peace Process to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation. The purpose of the Commission is to facilitate the location of the remains of the Disappeared in order that they may be returned to their families. These families have suffered a very particular cruelty in not only having to bear the tragedy of murder, but having been denied for so long information regarding the burial places of their loved ones.

[123]The Commission, with the support of the two Governments, has worked tirelessly over the years and I pay tribute to the Commissioners, Mr. Frank Murray and Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, and to their investigation team, for their sterling work in this difficult task. The remains of nine of the 16 persons on the Commission’s list have been recovered. Regrettably, there are still seven others who have not been located, despite the Commission’s efforts. The Commission’s current work programme based on the information about the possible location of one of the victims will result in some further excavation works later this spring.

On the 25 November 2011, together with Northern Ireland Office Minister of State, Hugo Swire MP, I met with the Commission and with family members of the Disappeared. I assured them of the two Governments continuing support for the Commission and for doing whatever is possible to locate the remains of those still missing. The Commission also had a very useful meeting with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on 16 February 2012 at which they were able to update members of the Committee on their work to date.

The Commissioners have emphasised to me that their work is driven by information. All information provided to the Commission will be treated as strictly confidential and everyone can be assured that such information can only be used to locate and identify the remains. It cannot be given to other agencies or used for prosecutions.

I know the House will join me in calling on anybody who has any information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information to the Commission without delay. The Commission has in place a confidential freephone number and PO box address through which information can be passed to it. Information about the Commission and how to contact it are available on the Commission’s website —www.iclvr.ie.

I would emphasise to the House that the Commission’s sole purpose is humanitarian. All the families want is to give their loved ones a decent burial, to have a place to grieve and, in some measure at least, to have closure. The Government remains committed to that aim and I call on all others to help bring it about.


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