There’s little festive joy for those who’ve suffered in the Troubles

Kevin McKee, one of the Disappeared.
Kevin McKee, one of the Disappeared.
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Four weeks from today will be Christmas Eve and, while my happiness knows no bounds because this year my grandchildren and their parents will be home to help us celebrate, I’m well aware of the dark cloud in the homes of so many, not the least of them those families whose loved ones were “Disappeared” by the IRA.

Last week this newspaper covered the inquests in a Dublin Coroners’ Court of two of the Disappeared, teenage student Kevin McKee and married labourer Seamus Wright, who were abducted in Belfast on the same day in 1972.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

Four decades later they were eventually found in the same shallow bogland grave in the Republic. The court declared them to have been unlawfully killed.

Kevin’s sister Philomena McKee and the Wright family have made another plea for the four remaining Disappeared to be found.

Philomena revealed the mental torture endured by her mother after her son disappeared. It was heartbreaking. She told how her mother took her with her when she went out to search for her son. She told also of how she used to sit waiting for his return.

Her mother, she said, would say: “Maybe he went off and married someone and didn’t want us to know.

“The day they took her brother they took my mother too,’’ she said. Kevin’s mother died in 2011 having never been re-united with her beloved son.

The torment wrought within families in this land has lasted decades and Dr William Matchett’s book, Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat the IRA, serialised in the News Letter, reveals that when the IRA campaign ended, the IRA was not compelled to say sorry.

Dr Matchett suggests: “How do you forgive someone who does not want forgiven? Someone who insists murder is right? If there is no repentance, there is no reconciliation. Ultimately the peace process boils down to placating Provos. It is not a peace process but an appeasement process. The main benefactor has been the republican movement.’’

I get sick and tired of the television interviewers who suggest that we all have to move on, that we have to forgive and forget. It rubs salt into the wounds when we can see the happiness a convicted killer has when he can marry the woman he loves in prison.

Dissident republicans Brendan McConville and JP Wootton were found guilty of killing PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009 and in 2012 were convicted and ordered to spend a minimum of 25 and 14 years in jail. 
McConville may be in prison but he can look forward to lots of visits from his new wife and, no doubt, they can have some time together this Christmas.

Other killers know they will have just two years to do in prison – some may even be out in time for this year’s festivities, whilst some won’t even be charged with anything after receiving their “comfort” letters thanks to the benevolence of former British politicians who should have known better.

While Kevin McKee languished in his lonely grave all those years, his brokenhearted mother would have had to endure Christmases without him. Kevin McKee wasn’t much younger than the son my grandmother lost to the IRA in 1925. He had been on ‘B’ Special duty when he was shot in an ambush. Though injured, he managed to escape and get home but died soon after on October 8. It broke my grandmother’s heart. The misery wrought in this country through political idealism knows no end. How many more generations must suffer? How many more Christmases will have to be endured rather than enjoyed?

Dr Matchett suggests that the “peace process” boils down to placating Provos. It is not a peace process, he declares, but an appeasement process. I’ll say.

l Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat the IRA, by Dr William Matchett, £12.95, available from and No Alibis books, Belfast.