On Saturday, April 4th, 2015 The Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio One, broadcast a near thirty minute segment devoted to interviews with relatives of four people ‘disappeared’ by either the IRA or the INLA.
The victims were Kevin McKee, Columba McVeigh, Seamus Ruddy and Joe Lynskey. Coincidentally the programme was aired just before Gerry Adams’ controversial interview on CBS Sixty Minutes, but was prompted by a renewed dig at a bog in Co Meath in the hope that this might locate the remains of three IRA victims, Kevin McKee, Seamus Wright and Joe Lynskey.
Apparently the dig has been at least partially successful. The remains of two people have been found and there is speculation that they are Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright, IRA members who were ‘disappeared’ in 1972 because of their associations with a shadowy British Army unit called the Military Reaction Force (MRF).
The Marian Finucane programme can be heard in its entirety at this link.
I am prompted only by outrage at a piece that appeared on the front page of The Irish News on Friday, to make reference to an exchange in that interview between Marian Finucane and Marie Lynskey, niece of the missing Joe Lynskey.
In that Irish News’ piece, the paper’s so-called star reporter, Allison Morris claims credit for revealing the ‘disappearance’ of Joe Lynskey, even though both she and her editor, Noel Doran, know that the real story is much more complex and that to make such a claim is both misleading and in the worst of taste.
The real story of how the world learned about the ‘disappearance’ of Joe Lynskey began when Boston College researcher, Anthony McIntyre sat down with former IRA commander Brendan Hughes and interviewed him about his life as a republican activist.
In the course of the subsequent interviews, Hughes told what he could recall about the death and disappearance of Joe Lynskey. It was one of many stories that he told.
When Hughes died and we attempted to fulfill his wish that his life story then be told to the world, it was necessary to confirm the Joe Lynskey story and to add in details that Brendan Hughes had either forgotten or did not know.
The Lynskey family also had a right to know what had happened to him. In fact we did not know what, if anything they did know about the man’s fate, but when I eventually made contact with a nephew, Tony Lynskey, it was obvious they had no clear idea of what had happened.
I was planning a trip to Belfast in the early summer of 2009 anyhow and so I arranged to meet members of the Lynskey family in an hotel in West Belfast. There I told them what I knew. They had an absolute right to know, even though I guessed that, West Belfast being West Belfast, there was little chance that my revelation would remain secret.
That is what I believe or suspect happened next. The news spread and fair play to Morris, she came across the gossip and developed it into a story. At the time she probably thought that she was the first to break the story but five years later, knowing all she and Doran must now know about the Joe Lynskey story and how it really became public, The Irish News has no right to claim that they exclusively revealed it to the world.
In her interview with Marie Lynskey, Marian Finucane dealt with how exactly the family had found out about Joe’s death and disappearance. The exchange starts at the 21:53 minute mark on the tape.
It goes thus:
Marian Finucane: How did you find out?
Marie Lynskey: Ed Moloney rang my mother’s home, my sister, and he arranged to come over from America. Well we actually thought that maybe he’s met Joe in America and Joe had died and he wanted to let us know. But then he told us he was a ‘disappeared’, which was, I suppose, naive of us not to think that he was.
Here is The Irish News front page story of today:
Behind the story: Allison Morris on how she broke the story of Joe Lynskey’s IRA execution
25 June, 2015 16:40
On December 7 2009 the Irish News carried a front page exclusive story revealing that west Belfast man Joe Lynskey had been murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.
The article was the culmination of a lengthy investigation by myself. Tracking down information on the former IRA intelligence officer was difficult, but eventually former republicans who had observed the law of Omerta for almost 40 years began to reveal details of the events surrounding his disappearance in 1972.
The controversial circumstances surrounding his murder and clandestine burial were initially only known to a few members of the IRA.
A Monaghan man who was a member of a small IRA unit guarding Mr Lynskey in the days leading up to his death later contacted me to give further details about the murder.
He claimed Mr Lynskey was held in an IRA safe-house between Castleblayney and Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, some time in August 1972. The victim was in the house for more than a week waiting for senior IRA members to arrive from north of the border to carry out an internal “court martial” which sealed his fate.
Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price also contacted the Irish News to reveal she had collected Mr Lynskey from a house in west Belfast and drove him to Monaghan. She told me he was not forced at gunpoint but went of his own free will.
She begged him to let her take him to the port to get a boat to England but she said he insisted she carry out her orders.
Joe Lynskey was the first person to be ‘disappeared’ by the IRA, he had previously studied at Bethlehem Abbey in Portglenone, Co Antrim, in the early 1950s training to be a Cistercian monk
Following the publication of the Irish News article the IRA was forced to issue a statement admitting their role in killing the west Belfast man.
Mr Lynskey fate was sealed after he had a relationship with the wife of another IRA man and, acting without the sanction of the organisation he ordered his love rival be shot.
The man survived the gun attack but confusion around who ordered the shooting lead to raised tensions between the then fledging Provisional and the Official IRA who it was initially thought carried out the murder attempt.
In February 2010 the Independent Commission for the Location for Victims Remains (ICLVR) added him to the list of people they were looking for. Former IRA members cooperated with the commission giving details of a site in Coghalstown, County Meath where he had been secretly buried.
A niece, Marie Lynskey, bravely came forward and made repeated appeals for information about her uncle to help find his remains and finally give the deeply religious former monk a dignified Christian burial.
Remains have now been found and while the state pathologist will begin the process of postmortem and of formal identification it is widely believed that almost 43 years after his disappearance they are the remains of Joe Lynskey.