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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 04:16 GMT 05:16 UK


'Disappeared' families put lives on hold

Search sites are now being filled in or made safe

Family life for relatives of the so-called disappeared has been put on hold for the past few weeks as searches continued for the bodies of their loved ones.

Home life took a back seat to the desperate quest to find the remains of nine people the IRA admitted murdering and burying in secret in the 1970s.

The Search for Peace
Seamus and Helen McKendry have had little opportunity to spend time at home with their children over the past two months.

Their hearts and minds have been torn between the search for Helen's mother Jean at Templetown Beach, Carlingford in County Lough, and the demands of family life in Crossgar, County Down.

The 37-year-old mother of 10 from West Belfast disappeared in 1972 after being abducted from her home by an IRA gang.

Searches pause

The search for her body has now been suspended because the Commission for the Location of Victims' remains says it needs more information if digging is to resume.

All that remains at the site is a shrine left by her family.

[ image: Helen McKendry: Life has been divided between children and dig site]
Helen McKendry: Life has been divided between children and dig site
Helen McKendry has endured an agonising few weeks.

"We've been living in Templetown and, maybe on a Tuesday night, coming home for a few hours and back again to make sure the children have food and they're okay," she said.

"When you get back to the site you are worried about the children you have left at home. It's just unbelievable what we're going through."

Seamus McKendry: "I'm on my knees begging"
Her husband Seamus says certain jobs still have to be done.

"We've the very mundane task of sorting out bills, trying to make sure the telephone is not cut off. Just your normal family chores," he said.

In County Monaghan two other bodies were found before searches were wound up at the weekend.

They are believed to be the remains of Brian McClory and John McKinney - but again formal identification is expected to take at least six weeks.

[ image: Margaret McKinney: Tense wait for identification of body]
Margaret McKinney: Tense wait for identification of body
John's mother Margaret admits it is impossible to stop her thoughts being dominated by her lost son.

"After waiting 21 years you'd think I would be used to waiting, but this is a different sort of waiting," she said.

"I went over on Monday to my daughter in Harrowgate. I just couldn't settle myself. I had to come back home again."

Work has already stopped at five other sites south of the border where Gardai have been searching for bodies.

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