The IRA admitted for the first time last week that it had executed a "small number of people" in the 1970s. Relatives of "the disappeared" now hope to persuade the Provisionals to reveal the locations of the remains, which will allow the dead to be given proper burials.
The IRA said last week it was setting up a special unit under a senior officer to trace the bodies. Sinn Fein has also set up its own helpline on the matter.
The families stressed that any information will remain confidential, and incriminating details will not be passed on to the police. A relatives' group, Families of the Disappeared, said at the launch of the hotline in Belfast: "We welcome the new climate of hope and reconciliation ... however, for us, the violence is not over, finished and done with. We still yearn for the return of the bodies of the loved ones."
Relatives spoke of their attempts to establish the fates of those abducted. One, 18-year-old John McClory, had been taken away and warned by paramilitaries over his "anti-social behaviour" - carrying out two robberies - the weekend before he went missing.
His sister, Eileen, said yesterday: "We heard they took him to a flat in Lenadoon, a safe house where they interrogated him in one room and Brian McKinney [another man who disappeared] in another. John threw himself out of the window, taking one of them with him. They shot him as he tried to get away. They had to shoot Brian as well. That's what we heard on the grapevine.
Her mother, Mary McClory, said: "All I want is my son's body. I just want to give him a decent burial."
Helen McKendry, whose mother Jean McConville was dragged from their home by the IRA, is one of the founder members of Families of the Disappeared. Ms McConville had helped a dying British soldier, and may also have been suspected of being an informer.
Ms McKendry said she had heard from the media about the IRA's decision to try to locate 14 graves. She said: "It would have helped if they'd had the decency to tell us first."
One problem facing the IRA, it is believed, is that those who carried out the burials may not remember where the graves are after all these years.Reuse content