By Claudia Savage, PA
A search for the remains of a teenager who was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975 has resumed.
Digging started on Monday at Bragan Bog in Co Monaghan as investigators search for the body of Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone.
He is one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles whose bodies have still to be found.
A search for Mr McVeigh’s remains in the bog began in October 2022 but was suspended at the beginning of November when the ground conditions became too dangerous for contractors and archaeologists to continue.
His sister Dympna Kerr was at the bog on Monday as the search resumed.
Jon Hill, the lead investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR), said he believed that Mr McVeigh’s remains are in the area they are searching.
He said: “We have returned today for the second part of this search. It started last year in October, we always knew it was going to be a two-phased search because it was late in the year.
“We have set out an area of around two acres of ground that we intend to search.
“Hopefully we are going to have a dry enough summer to be able to continue the search until a satisfactory conclusion.
“Hopefully that is recovering the remains of Columba McVeigh.
“I am totally confident that if he was buried here, we will find him. We have the experts, we have the technology, we have the equipment.”
Mr Hill added: “Is he here in the first place? Yes, I believe he is in this area, on this road.
“We have been disappointed too many times to say with complete assurance this is where he is. This area has changed so much over the years.
“Since back in 1975 it would have looked completely different.
“There have been five previous searches and they changed the terrain.
“People’s memories won’t be what they were, the area doesn’t look the way it did and it is completely understandable, although disappointing that we haven’t found the right spot as of yet.
“The anniversary of the 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement obviously has taken this forward dramatically and it has encouraged people to come forward with information and resolve this matter.”
Ms Kerr said the resumption of the bog search brings both hope and anxiety.
“Of course we hope that this time Columba will be found but those hopes have been dashed so many times before that there still is that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach,” she said, adding: “Please make it this time.”
“It’s 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, that was to bring in a new beginning, a new dawn of hope and for many – including us – it did.
“But there is still a dark, thick cloud that hasn’t lifted for our family and the other families who are still waiting to bring him home”.
Ms Kerr said she hoped US President Joe Biden would be made aware of the plight of the families of the Disappeared who are still waiting for a resolution during his visit to Northern Ireland for the anniversary later this month.
“President Biden will rightly be proud of the role played by the USA in our peace process,” Ms Kerr said.
“And President Clinton did so much for the families of the Disappeared, but President Biden needs to know that there is unfinished business and that there are Irish men and women who every day and every night still have to live in this horrible limbo.
“It has to end.”
The ICLVR was established in 1999 to locate 16 missing Irish and British people presumed murdered during paramilitary violence and buried in secret.