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Unresolved cases of the “disappeared” continue to haunt Northern Ireland: the quest for closure and reconciliation

In an April 2023 article by Rory Carroll for The Guardian, the reporter discusses the continued impact of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly the unresolved cases of the “disappeared.” These were individuals who were abducted, murdered, and clandestinely buried by the IRA during the 1970s and 1980s. The piece highlights the ongoing emotional turmoil experienced by the victims’ families and the work of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) to find and recover the bodies.

The ICLVR, headed by former Manchester detective Geoff Knupfer, was established in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement. It focused on finding the remains of 17 individuals who had been abducted by paramilitaries during the Troubles. Thirteen sets of remains were eventually found, providing some consolation to the families. However, four individuals are still unaccounted for, and their families remain in a state of limbo.

The article goes on to discuss the political ramifications of such unresolved “legacy” cases. A government bill proposing a conditional amnesty for perpetrators and permanently closing these cases has been met with widespread condemnation. Critics argue that it is an attempt to shield British army veterans from investigation for torture, killings, and collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

The issue is far from over. The Wave Trauma Centre, a trauma centre and victims’ rights group in Northern Ireland, continues to help over a thousand people each year deal with the ongoing emotional impact of the Troubles. Carroll reports that the lack of a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission has left families with unresolved trauma, which in some cases has been passed down through generations.

Such an issue goes to the heart of the work that we do as a charity.

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) is a member of the Every Casualty Counts network, a group that believes that all victims of armed violence should be recorded and published. This belief underscores the importance of acknowledging and addressing the unresolved cases and the emotional toll they continue to have on the victims’ families.

By expanding on this theme, the article emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach to healing the wounds left by the Troubles. The work of the ICLVR and Wave Trauma Centre are essential in addressing the lingering emotional and psychological effects of this dark period in Northern Ireland’s history. Recognising and honouring the victims of armed violence is a critical step in moving towards a future of peace and reconciliation.

In summary, Rory Carroll’s article in The Guardian effectively portrays the ongoing struggle faced by families affected by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as well as the efforts of the ICLVR and Wave Trauma Centre to help these families find closure. Furthermore, the article serves – without naming them – to highlight the importance and urgency of the work carried out by organisations like AOAV and the Every Casualty Counts network in promoting the recognition and documentation of all victims of armed violence.