….and if the search of the bogland at Coghalstown, Co Meath also locates the remains of Joe Lynskey, the former Belfast Brigade Intelligence Officer, will that mean that the first four of the IRA’s ‘disappeared’ will have finally been located?
The four unfortunates, who include Jean McConville, were ‘disappeared’ in 1972 as a result of a new policy introduced shortly after the release from internment in Long Kesh of Gerry Adams, who around the same time as the ‘disappearance’ of Joe Lynskey, became Belfast Brigade commander.
The ‘disappearances’ were facilitated by a new unit, whose creation also followed on the heels of Adams’ release from Long Kesh, that became known, almost ironically, as ‘The Unknowns’. This unit was answerable ultimately to the Brigade Commander, Gerry Adams although on a day-to-day basis it was commanded by the then Brigade intelligence chief, the late Pat McClure.
The saga of the ‘disappeared’ has haunted Adams ever since his once close friend and IRA comrade, Brendan Hughes, disclosed in interviews with researchers from Boston College that Adams gave the order to ‘disappear’ Jean McConville and that ‘The Unknowns’ were his creation and creature.
Hughes was also closely involved in the events that led to the deaths and disappearances of Wright and McKee, both members of the IRA’s elite Second Belfast Battalion, once commanded by Gerry Adams. Wright was in ‘D’ Coy and McKee in ‘B’ Coy.
They confessed to Hughes that they had become involved with a shadowy British Army unit known as the Military Reaction Force or MRF, a creation of Brigadier Frank Kitson.
The pair, whose family connections reached deep into Provo Belfast, were guaranteed safety by Hughes if they made a clean breast of their activity with the British. When they were taken down to Co. Monaghan they thought, thanks to this assurance, that they were going on a break and were relaxed and happy.
But they were lied to, not by Hughes, who later learned the truth and felt betrayed. In fact Wright & McKee, got on so well with their new captors and were such good company, that the IRA in Co Monaghan refused to kill them and a gunman was dispatched from Belfast to end their lives.
Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk who fell in love with the wife of a fellow IRA Volunteer. In those far-off days, divorce was not an option in Catholic West Belfast so Lynskey and his lover concocted a plot to brand his lover’s husband as an informer. A gunman was sent to kill him, but when the target answered the door he had a baby in his arms; the gunman aimed low, failed to kill and fled.
The wounded IRA Volunteer made his way down to the lower Falls and claimed he thought his assailant was a member of the Official IRA. The Provos, led by Brendan Hughes, raided a local Official drinking club to capture hostages to hold for the surrender of the gunman but in the confusion shots were fired and an Official was fatally wounded.
Lynskey’s plot soon collapsed and the truth quickly emerged. His fate was sealed and he was escorted across the Border to a death that he apparently welcomed.
Lynskey’s death was the result of his own immaturity, a rigid Catholicism of those days in places like West Belfast that made divorce an impossibility, the fear of IRA leaders that loose morals of the sort that had been unleashed by internment could undermine discipline and encourage subversion and an unwillingness by the same leaders to tell the truth for fear that this could hand their enemies, British & domestic, a propaganda coup.
The latter fear, that the truth could cause damage, was a common factor in all four disappearances carried out by the Unknowns. In Joe Lynskey’s case it was that the IRA was not invulnerable to sexual urges; in the case of Wright & McKee it was that British military intelligence had penetrated the IRA’s crack Second Batt, and in Jean McConville’s case it was an unwillingness to admit that the IRA had killed a widowed mother-of-ten.
It says a lot about the IRA of those as well as these times that when the organisation agreed finally to come clean about the ‘disappeared’, the one victim whose name was omitted from the list submitted to the British and Irish governments, a list compiled at the urging of the US government, was that of Joe Lynskey. It was okay, apparently, to admit the ‘disappearing’ of Jean McConville, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee but not Joe Lynskey.
And but for Brendan Hughes’ refreshing and honest candour it is very possible we would never have learned of that sad man’s sad end.