Mother waits in torment for body of her 'wee boy'

MARGARET McKINNEY, 68, sits by the telephone in her neat west Belfast home, waiting to hear from Gardai in the Irish Republic that they have recovered the body of her son, Brian, from marshland in Co Monaghan. Her face is etched with the pain of the 21 years of loss, which began when the IRA took away her son, then aged 22, and killed him for apparently using one of its guns in an armed robbery.

As she tells her story her voice quavers and her eyes often fill with tears: this is a woman whose simple eloquence reveals a life filled with grief and near-despair. The week's searches for the bodies of her son and the other seven "Disappeared" have brought fresh pain, but also new hope.

She says: "It's not easy to watch those big mechanical diggers. I believe the IRA is telling the truth and has given the proper information, but they can't locate the exact spot because so many years have passed. It's been quite harrowing, but it has helped that my family's all here.

"My daughter has arrived over from England with four young grandchildren so I haven't had time to sit about; we're on the go all the time, which I'm grateful for. I have great hopes, yes I do - great hopes that he's there. And we've had so much support from everyone; everyone's praying, everyone; the phone hasn't stopped ringing.

"I've thought about going down to the site, but my husband's already been there and he has advised me not to go. He said it's very depressing, that it's a scene he'll never get out of his memory. But at the same time I'm thinking that I should maybe go, even if it's only to stand there for five or ten minutes, say a wee prayer, bring a wee flower with me.

"I haven't been sleeping for a couple of nights. I even came down the stairs during the night - I was sure I'd heard the phone ringing. I couldn't believe it when it turned out I'd imagined it.

"In 1978 the IRA held Brian for 48 hours after a robbery and then released him. Brian told us about the robbery and what his share of the money was. We were very angry about the robbery and we brought him up to the clubhouse the next morning and we paid the money back again, his share of it. And we were saying, 'Maybe this is a blessing in disguise - he'll know not to do nothing like that again'.

"Brian told us about the gun. He didn't know the name of the man that give him the gun, but it was an IRA man and he was getting a share of the money. Brian was in such a state that he didn't tell us lies, I know he didn't. He was just so glad to get it off his chest.

"Brian never had tuppence. When he got his pay on Thursday he paid us all back what he owed us, a pound here and there, that type of thing. Our Brian had no right to do a robbery. He would have done it to show off. He was only 5ft 1in, so he wasn't a big, macho fellow. He was a chronic asthmatic and all his life he was in and out of hospital, especially when he was younger.

"He wasn't smart at all at school, as far as his lessons were concerned, but all the teachers were very fond of him. They used to let him wash their cars and give him half a crown, because they knew it was in vain trying to educate him. When he was 14 years old a doctor diagnosed him as having the mind of a six-year-old. He was very childish in his ways - he'd do awful silly things so we'd give him extra attention, we were all very protective of him.

"After he was taken I used to get into his bed and pull his wee bedclothes round me and eventually fall asleep. But then I'd wake up and it was a nightmare again. I'd try to get back into that sleep again to get away from it. Or I'd sit with his jacket round me; just sitting, crying from morning to night, or kneeling down and praying.

"For years I'd ring up police stations in England if I'd read in the papers that a body had been found somewhere. They'd ask me for a description and then they'd say it wasn't him.

"I wanted to jump off the edge of the world. I always wanted to run away but there was nowhere for me to run to.

"For years I was so full of hate and bitterness. I took a Sacred Heart picture off the wall and I smashed it because I couldn't believe there was a God who would let this happen. Now I pray again, every chance. Even if I'm cooking I just keep saying, 'Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee'.

"It has made such a difference for the IRA to own up to it and say that they killed him. That has been a comfort to me; if you can say that's a comfort, that they murdered your child. But that's the truth, that's the way I feel. I've no hatred, none at all.

"The Gardai have told us that when Brian's body is found no one will touch it and no one will know until we are contacted first. A priest will be called and we can go down there, but I don't really think I want to see that part. We have got a grave ready in a nice wee part of Milltown cemetery - it's just a dander down the road, we have all the arrangements made.

"I've got heart disease now. It's as if I've been holding on till I find Brian, just holding on to life. I believe this will be it, we will get Brian back soon."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reception Teacher in Bradford

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Reception Primary Teacher in Bra...

English Secondary Teacher

£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: English Teacher needed for ...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album