The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Derry’s Disappeared
Deaglán Ó Donghaile • Derry News, 11 September 2003

Sinn Féin has tried to use the recent discovery of human remains in County Louth as an opportunity to divert attention from the abduction and murder of South Armagh man, Gareth O’Connor, which occurred in May. The party rushed to capitalise on the find, stating that it provided “closure” to the family of Jean McConville but Sinn Féin’s optimism is by no means altruistic. Jean McConville was murdered in December 1972 and since then her family have endured torture and loss. Given that the McConvilles have had to suffer for 31 years, the public will doubt whether there can ever be any “closure” for the family.

The publicity stunt backfired for Sinn Féin when the Victim’s Commission initially stated that, contrary to a claim by the Provisionals, it has not received any new information about the whereabouts of the rest of “the disappeared”. This embarrassed the party so much that it then refused to send any representatives to talk about the matter to BBC Newsline. This year marks the anniversary of a similar outrage, which was also followed by denial and lies by the republican leadership, but one that became a huge embarrassment for them and a moral victory for the people of Derry.

Thirty years ago the IRA also abducted and shot dead a Derry man and then tried to hide his body. But this murder and “disappearance” didn’t take as long to embarrass the Provisionals as Jean McConville’s did. When Patrick Duffy, from Rathlin Drive in Creggan, was abducted from a pub in Buncrana on the 9th of August, 1973, and then shot dead, the leadership of the IRA in Derry City decided that his body should be hidden. The 37 year-old father of seven was secretly buried in a bog outside Buncrana.

During the fortnight after Patrick Duffy’s murder there was uproar in Derry. Opposition to this disappearance was voiced by the public, by local supporters and members of the republican movement in the city, and by Derry internees in Long Kesh. What outraged the internees about the disappearance was the fact that the IRA had committed a gross human rights abuse by denying the Duffy family’s right to habeas corpus. The internees were disgusted by this because the Special Powers Act allowed the prison authorities to keep and bury the bodies of any prisoners who died or were killed inside the jails.

Despite these calls for the return of Patrick Duffy’s body the IRA refused to release the remains and on August 17th placed a notice in a local newspaper stating that Duffy had been shot dead for being a police informer. They kept his body hidden until August 24th, when popular resentment forced them to capitulate. That night Patrick Duffy’s body was left in a coffin placed inside a car on the Buncrana Road. Under immense pressure from the people of Derry, the leadership of the IRA was eventually forced to surrender the remains and their attempt to enforce the policy of “disappearing” on the people of Derry failed.

Hiding bodies, or “disappearing” is carried out by governments and paramilitaries alike in order to terrify populations but the policy also indicates that those who conceal bodies have something themselves to hide. Often there is a wider degree of complicity in the crime that the murdered person has been accused of (usually informing, in the case of Ireland’s disappeared), and it is hoped that, in the absence of a body, total blame will be attached to the victim so that attention will be diverted from ongoing infiltration by other police agents. Or, as with the recent case of Gareth O’Connor, who was abducted and murdered along the South Armagh border, the Provisionals and their mouthpieces simply believe that by making a person vanish they will erase all memory of the crime.

The widespread disgust that was expressed at Patrick Duffy’s disappearance is proof that the truth cannot be spirited away as easily as someone’s remains. This was one occasion when the republican movement and the people of Derry defied an IRA leadership that came up with the idea of hiding bodies. People have only to consider the contrast with the murder and disappearance of Gareth O’Connor to see how that movement has changed and how cowed much of the wider community has become.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

16 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


In The Shadow of Fear
Anthony McIntyre


Derry's Disappeared
Deaglán Ó Donghaile


Bangers on the Blanket?
Kathleen O Halloran


Dialectics of Terror
M Shaid Alam


Prison Segregation
Republican Prisoners Support Network


Letter to the Chief Constable
British Irish Rights Watch


A Jackboot on my Presscard
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.


11 September 2003


Seconds Out for Round Thirteen
Eamon Sweeney


UN Report on Human Development
Liam O Ruairc


No Sign Yet of an End to the Cold War
Anthony McIntyre


West Belfast - The Politics of Childhood
Davy Carlin


Review of Eoin O'Broin's Matxinada
Douglas Hamilton


Help Renew the Republican Dream
Gerry Ruddy


Three Meeting Announcements
Belfast & Dublin




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