The best way to honour the memory of ‘Disappeared’ campaigner Margaret McKinney is to continue looking for those whose remains have yet to be found.
That is the verdict of Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who both paid tribute to Mrs McKinney after her passing at the age of 85 on Tuesday.
The ‘Disappeared’ are those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA during the Troubles.
Margaret McKinney’s son Brian was abducted in 1978 while on his way to work and never heard from again, until 1999 when his body was discovered in a bog in Co Monaghan.
His remains were located using information provided by an IRA intermediary.
Despite extensive searches, the remains have never been found of four out of the 16 people listed by the commission set up to locate victims.
Margaret McKinney’s tireless efforts on behalf of the families of the Disappeared have won tributes and plaudits across Northern Ireland.
She will be laid to rest on Saturday at Milltown cemetery beside her son Brian and late husband William, following her funeral at St Matthias’ Church on the Glen Road at 10am in Belfast.
Mr Nesbitt said: “The Families of the Disappeared were among the most dignified campaigners I came across as a commissioner for victims and survivors.
“Margaret McKinney was a leading light in that group, taking every opportunity to highlight the human cost of the Troubles.
“It would be a fitting tribute to her life and work if the remains of the last of the Disappeared were returned to their loved ones so they can mourn like any other family.”
Mr Donaldson also paid tribute to her “courage and determination”.
He said: “This lady fought so hard, not only for her own family but also for many others who lost their loved ones during the Troubles.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time. She will be long remembered for her courage and determination in pursuing the plight of the Disappeared when so many had given up.
“I think we owe it to this lady’s memory to continue the pursuit of those cases that remain unresolved and we must seek to ensure that the remains of all of the Disappeared are returned to their families for Christian burial.”
He continued: “These cases highlight the inhumanity that was shown towards so many families in Northern Ireland. The Families of the Disappeared not only lost their loved ones, they lost the opportunity to properly mourn their loss because their remains haven’t been returned.”