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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Mother of Disappeared victim dies
By Tara Mills
BBC Newsline

The mother of one of the so-called Disappeared has died at the age of 82.

Ian Paisley met Mrs McVeigh last November
Ian Paisley met Mrs McVeigh last November

Vera McVeigh campaigned tirelessly for the return of her son's body.

Columba McVeigh was 17 when he was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in 1975 in their home village of Donaghmore, County Tyrone.

He was one of nine people killed by the IRA and secretly buried.

Mrs McVeigh had been ill for some time and suffered a massive stroke last week and died in hospital on Wednesday.

Visited the site

In 1999, the IRA said it would try to help locate the bodies of nine of the Disappeared, including Columba McVeigh. Only four bodies were ever found.

Extensive searches for Columba McVeigh's body were carried out in 2003 at a bog in Emyvale, County Monaghan.

They started after the IRA said it had given information about the whereabouts of the body to the Irish government.

Mrs McVeigh visited the site, saying she hoped it would allow her to lay her son to rest.

Mrs McVeigh is survived by her two sons, Eugene and Oliver, and daughter Dympna.

Eugene McVeigh told the BBC: "We would love it if there was a conclusion to this and if we could just bury a body beside her, because that's what she would have wanted.
Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975
Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975

"That hasn't happened in her lifetime, which is regrettable, but if it happened in ours it would give some finality to the rest of us.

"But we're no different from other people who've been dealt a personal blow."

Oliver McVeigh added: "The last eight or nine years certainly took their toll on my mother, but she hung on in hope. She wanted Columba in the family grave and then she'd be happy to follow him.

"But I wouldn't be her son, if I didn't keep the campaign going. It will be more vigorous than ever. I just hope that the people who refused to come forward to help, including some locals, are proud of themselves."

Mr McVeigh said the time of her death was ironic given the historic events at Stormont on Tuesday.

'Great sadness'

DUP leader Ian Paisley, who met Mrs McVeigh last year and made an appeal for information on the whereabouts of her son's body, has contacted the family to pass on his condolences.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Mrs McVeigh," he said.

"I have been in touch with Mrs McVeigh's family to express my heartfelt sympathy. I also told her family that I will not allow the issue of the whereabouts of Columba and the other bodies to drop off the agenda.

"I will continue to work to bring about a resolution of this sad and difficult problem."

SDLP Mid-Ulster assembly member Patsy McGlone said he had always been struck by Mrs McVeigh's "bravery and her fortitude".

"The disappearance of her son and the lack of information of what happened to him took its toll on her over the years, but she never lost hope that his body would finally be returned to the family so that they could grieve properly.

"The most fitting tribute and lasting memorial to this extraordinary woman would be the return of Columba's body."

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness also extended sympathy to Mrs McVeigh's family.

"The McVeigh family have suffered a grave injustice," Mr McGuinness said.

"I want to repeat the call for anyone with information about Columba McVeigh to bring it forward to me, to the family or the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains."

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