Times Online - Sunday Times

Gardai to dig for body of teenager killed by IRA
Liam Clarke, Northern Ireland Editor

GARDAI will start digging tomorrow at a bog in Monaghan for the remains of Columba McVeigh, one of Northern Ireland’s disappeared, according to senior security sources. The 17-year-old was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA almost 28 years ago.
Vera McVeigh, Columba’s 78-year-old mother, confirmed yesterday that she had been told by gardai and by John Wilson, the head of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, that the dig is due to start early tomorrow morning.

“The gardai are ringing me at 11am to tell me what the progress is. Please God they will find him,” said Vera McVeigh, who lives in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone.

Her son was abducted on November 1, 1975, a few days after he had returned home from working in Dublin as a painter. The IRA did not concede its involvement in his disappearance until 1999, when it issued a statement admitting that it had murdered and secretly buried nine people. Until then Vera McVeigh had hoped her son was still alive.

“He was the divil after girls and his father was a bit strait-laced in that regard, so when he disappeared I was thinking along those lines, that he wanted a bit more freedom,” she said.

About a month ago the IRA passed on new information about McVeigh’s remains to the Irish government but the Department of Justice did not make this available to Wilson’s commission until last Wednesday, according to a senior official.

The department was also given information on the location of the body of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1972. Her body is believed to have been discovered accidentally on Shelling Hill Strand just over a week ago. The IRA’s information had suggested that it was more than half a mile away on nearby Templetown beach.

The inaccurate and misleading character of the IRA information in the case of McConville puts a question mark over what it has said about McVeigh’s remains, but the authorities feel it is detailed enough to merit a new dig.

Father Alex Reid, a Redemptorist priest who has acted as a go-between for the Irish government in its dealings with the IRA, was involved in the contacts which led to the new information being given to the Irish authorities.

Vera McVeigh said: “Father Reid rings me regularly and just over a week ago he told me there was new information.”

When the IRA admitted the murder of McVeigh and other “disappeared” they said the body had been buried in a bog at Bragan, near Emyvale in Co Monaghan, which had not been worked since the 1970s.

Gardai excavated around a third of an acre of the remote bog, which had to be approached up a track on foot. Mechanical diggers excavated 8ft pits, and metal detectors and sniffer dogs were brought in, all without success.

It is understood that the information recently given by the IRA covers a narrower area and is thought to come from one of those involved in the burial.

“They are aiming to dig for a week or less,” said Vera McVeigh. “It is not vague directions. I am pleased that they might find Columba but I am nearly past being anything. He is still dead, that is the bottom line — how good can it be?”

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