As the distress of waiting relatives increased, there were political attacks on Sinn Fein and calls for the IRA to provide more precise information on the location of the bodies. The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, replied that he presumed that the IRA had passed on all the information it had.
Gardai in the Irish Republic have sealed off six sites in the counties of Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Wicklow, but only four are being worked on. The task of searching has proved more difficult than anticipated.
Four of the sites are in bog or marshland, creating severe problems. Gardai said that at one spot 20,000 gallons of water were being pumped out every hour to make digging possible.
At a beach near Carlingford in Co Louth, just south of the border, two of the daughters of Jean McConville spent part of the day looking on as Gardai dug into a car park in search of their mother.
Seamus McKendry, husband of one of the daughters, said all the waiting families were despairing at the lack of progress. Calling for more information from the IRA he declared: "I demand that they help me and the other families. The same difficulties are being experienced at other sites around the country."
Mr Adams attempted to shelter his party from any negative impact resulting from the macabre searches. He said on Radio 4's Today programme that he regretted the suffering of the families and admitted that "a great injustice" had been done to them.
He went on: "These things happen in war. These killings happened 25 years ago, when the war here was at its height. The difficulty in all of this for everyone is that during war, and in war, horrible things are done. There can be no attempt by me to minimise that or in any way to diminish the responsibilities of republicans for what has occurred."
In his remarks the Sinn Fein leader kept carefully to the standard republican lexicon in that he did not specifically apologise for or explicitly condemn the killings and secret burials. The only act of violence he has formally condemned was the Omagh bombing by a breakaway republican group, the Real IRA, which killed 29 people last year.
Brendan McGahon, a Fine Gael member of the Irish parliament whose constituency includes the Carlingford area, criticised the recent legislation passed by Westminster and Dublin, which laid down that any forensic evidence discovered should not be used as evidence in court.
He declared: "We are creating precedents by writing off murder. It is part of the appeasing methods of the Labour government, led by well- intentioned people. They have now legitimised murder."Reuse content