The Stephen Nolan Show
BBC Radio Ulster
Vinny Hurrell speaks to Anne Morgan via telephone from Paris, France about the possibility of finding the remains of her brother, Seamus Ruddy, one of The Disappeared.
(Note: The audio cannot be downloaded. You can listen along by clicking here.)
Vinny: So as we’ve been hearing in the newspapers human remains have been found in France in search for the body of Seamus Ruddy, one of The Disappeared. His sister, Anne Morgan, is in France and can talk to us now. Good Morning to you, Anne.
Anne: Good Morning, Vinny.
Vinny: A difficult question to answer, I’m sure, but can you put into words what this will mean if it is confirmed to be Seamus’ remains?
Anne: It will just be absolutely wonderful to be able to take his remains home and to give him a Christian burial. And we’ve thought about this and dreamt about this day but it has now come, hopefully, when the remains are identified, and we will be ready to take him back to Newry.
Vinny: He was thirty-two years old when he went missing teaching in Paris in 1985 – shot dead by the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army). It must feel, for you and your family, like this continual nightmare that never seemed to end.
Anne: Yes and I think in Seamus’ case, because he was here in France, we had a more difficult task through the years because it is not easy, you know, going through all the bureaucracy of the French system and to get a search carried out. So it has taken a lot of effort on behalf of the ICLVR (Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains) who have been with us all the way since the peace process began in 1999.
Vinny: Did you ever give up hope that you’d get to this point, Anne, that you would find him?
Anne: Well no. No, no. Through the years I’ve always been hopeful. I probably gave up hope on Friday because I was leaving Rouen and I had boarded a train to go back to Paris and then to continue home when I got the phone call to say that remains had been found.
Vinny: And how do you feel after so many years, thirty-two odd years, when you hear that?
Anne: Well I was just completely taken by surprise. I was just very, very emotional and I could hardly speak and I was not as controlled as I am today and it was just overwhelming.
Vinny: This is, is obviously, a bit of a bittersweet time for you and the family. You’ve got closure for the family but then this new phase in the grieving process will begin between now and, this is once again assuming that they do confirm they are Seamus’ remains, to the point where you get to give him that burial that you’ve wanted for so long.
Anne: Yeah, I think that the grieving process has, we’ve come through it a certain degree, over the years and whenever a search was taking place here in France you know that grieving process was being, it was being rushed if you know what I mean. And then now, things now will slow down and the family, who are all in Newry, will be patiently waiting for him to return so we’ll be – you know we’re strong, Vinny.
Vinny: This isn’t the first time, of course, that there has been a search – they’ve attempted to try and find him so obviously that would have been in the back of your mind when this was happening, when you out there, when you made the journey to France.
Anne: That’s right. You know, I had been here in 2000 when the first search took place and that lasted six hours. Then I came back in 2008 and the forensic team were in charge of that particular search and that search took four days. And then so on two occasions I’ve been present in France when the results were negative and I had to return without him. But this time now it’s more joyful in one respect because I will be able to take him home at some stage.
Vinny: Can you put into words, Anne, what this ordeal, which has lasted for over thirty years, has done to you and you family – going through that – that constant search on a daily basis?
Anne: I think it was very, very difficult for the family from the very beginning and then as it was the case The Troubles were still going on at the time and whenever Seamus first disappeared and we began to ask questions that was the time when we were given a death threat and we were told we were not allowed to speak about it and the family had to be quiet and…
Vinny: …And where did that death threat come from?
Anne: The death threat came from the INLA and it just meant that we had to – we had to be quiet. And probably people were wondering why we weren’t talking about it but we were under the threat and you know so those first ten years were very, very, very, very difficult but the peace process came in and Seamus’ name was on the list of The Disappeared and then that’s when it came out really into the open as such, you know the…
Vinny: …When did you find out, Anne, that he was dead in terms of in 1985 when he disappeared and when did it move from becoming hoping that he would re-appear, that he would come home one day, to knowing that was never going to happen?
Anne: Yeah well in 1995 there was a news report, it was from a member of the INLA who released a statement, and then in that statement he said that Seamus was dead and it was the first time, the first confirmation we had…
Vinny: …Did you know – had you suspected that he was gone? Had you any doubt after the initial few days passed when he disappeared in 1985?
Anne: Yeah, well it was quite difficult because we were in Newry and he was in Paris and he was teaching in Paris and it was his colleagues in Paris who informed us that he hadn’t turned up for work and then they’d gone to his flat and he wasn’t there you know so – and his passports were still in the flat and you there were signs that he had just gone out you know, for whatever for and never came back.
Vinny: But you live in hope?
Anne: Yes, definitely. Definitely. I was always hoping. And I was always searching for him in a sense. When I would go out you know in crowds I was always looking for his face and that may sound strange to people but I never sort of gave up hope, you know – I was always was – you know maybe – there’s always a maybe. Maybe he’s still around. Maybe. I wasn’t convinced of the fact that he was dead, if you know what I mean? The brain, I suppose, just plays tricks with you, you know? And then even on one occasion I was in a bar and a fella came in and he was standing with his back to us at the bar and I thought: That looks very like him – same set as him you know – he wasn’t that tall and dark hair, curly hair and I thought: My God, that looks like him! So in the end I did go up to this man and I said: Excuse me, (and I just said) have you any relatives living in Northern Ireland? I didn’t know what really to say to the man. And he said no, no – he was a southern Irish man and I said: He looks very, very like you – you must be his twin. You know so those occasions did happen you know where – and I’d say that the rest of the family were the same. There probably were times when they looked at someone and thought: Well maybe that is him, you know? The passage of time does a lot of strange things to you…
Vinny: …Yeah, it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for you, Anne?
Anne: No, it never made it easier. Definitely not. And sort of entering into the grieving process you know away back in 1985 it has been struggle really to remain positive and to have hope you know so it has been – it has been a very, very difficult thirty-two years really.
Vinny: We – quite often it pops up in the news now and again, Anne, when we hear about The Disappeared, whatever update or investigation is underway, and it can be easy to forget about the people, the people that have gone, to become just a name or just one of the number and the people that are associated with them so what was Seamus – what was he like?
Anne: Seamus was a happy-go-lucky fella who would have been very passionate about politics – you know he would have been able to talk to anyone about any of the international affairs that were going on. He was very bright and he had gone to Trinity College and you know he was an intelligent and happy-go-lucky young man.
Vinny: And do you remember that last time you saw him, Anne? It’s a long time ago but I’m sure that’s something that sticks out in your mind.
Anne: Yes. Yes, yes, I do remember vividly because I was here in Paris with a group of school children from my school – I taught in Saint Mary’s School in Newry and we were on a French trip and Seamus came with us while we were touring around Paris and he came on the coach and he took us to some very interesting places that he had found out about and on the last night that I saw him I met him at the Sacré–Cœur Church in Paris and we went back to his apartment and we sat ’til the early hours of the morning talking and laughing and you know, carrying on. And then the next morning he got up and he went to work and he just left me a note – and I still have the note – explaining to me how I could get back to the school group – I had to go back and meet up with the school group and that was the very, very last time that I spoke or seen Seamus alive.
Vinny: There will be people, Anne, listening this morning that will say that Seamus was involved in Republicanism and his murder was by former associates in the INLA. How do you feel about that when you reflect back on his life?
Anne: Well it really is: Seamus lived his life the way he wanted to live his life and what he did he did it in a private manner. The family were totally unaware of anything that Seamus was doing.
Vinny: I guess the reason, the reason I ask is: Do you ever feel frustration towards him because you loved him dearly, he was your brother, and the situation that he ended up in at the end?
Anne: No, no, no. Seamus lived his life the way he wanted to live his life and he was committed to that life. And you know it ended tragically in a forest in France. We would prefer him to be here, of course, but that wasn’t the case. And then it meant that we just had to get on with it. It was only after Seamus died that we then began to realise about his other life which we had no control over and during this time, during the thirty-two years, I have always said, even to you know the INLA or whoever: I am looking for my brother. And I maintained that because that’s the reason that I looked for him. he was my brother. He wasn’t a member of an organisation, he wasn’t this other person because we did not know about that.
Vinny: Many victims’ families, Anne, they want their day in court. They want to see the killers prosecuted for taking their loved ones.
Anne: Well in 1999 the families of The Disappeared agreed during the peace process that we would give that side of our recovery – just leave it there. Our justice is not being looked at in the court. We are not going to court to prosecute anyone who’s carried out these offences. We are not going to try and get them to you know apologise or anything else. We are not doing that. And the families of The Disappeared have stood by this commitment that we want justice and the justice for us is not in a court room but it is to get the remaining bodies back home and give them a Christian burial.
Vinny: Is there not a little part of you, Anne, that would like to see whoever is responsible for taking your brother – prosecution – some kind of punishment in some way?
Anne: No. No, no. I mean being a member of The Disappeared is a very complicated area and I would never have got Seamus back if I had been looking for prosecution. I would never have got him. And I…
Vinny: …A difficult compromise to make.
Anne: Very, very difficult – very difficult – but it was the best way for the families of The Disappeared to get their loved ones home. We needed to let the men of violence know that we are not out to take them through the courts. We do not – we don’t want that and we’re not going to do that. We’re not. But we were just – and the people who came forward and gave the information about where Seamus was they’re the people, really, that I would thank – you know, that they came forward and I would also appeal to those who know, or may know, some details about the remaining three disappeared who are still waiting – there’s three families still waiting – to come forward and to give the information. And the information will be given in a confidential style. Nothing will be leaked out. And though this process, since 2005-2006, no information has ever gone back so it is water-tight. I would encourage anyone to come forward with information concerning the others.
Vinny: And yet they find at the weekend, we are assuming it’s your brother, is Seamus, this came after new information was passed to the Commission and of course that information then is protected from prosecution. Did you have any unease with that or is that just a means to an end – this is what – a price worth paying to get Seamus home?
Anne: That’s exactly right. We wouldn’t be taking Seamus home if I had said that you know I’m going through the courts and I want these people prosecuted. That is not the way of it. That is not the way of it. And I feel that we should be you know working towards this and I think, you know with regards to the peace process in Northern Ireland, you know that the families of The Disappeared need to be given some relief and that they need their loved ones home and we need – you know as a society in Northern Ireland I think we need to be working towards more reconciliation and helping those who have information to come forward.
Vinny: That’s what some people might find difficult this morning, Anne. Earlier, a few minutes ago, you said that you would thank the people that passed over information that has led to the hopeful discovery of your brother’s remains and they might say well there’s a good chance, there’s a possibility that those people, the people with that information are, in some way, connected to the death of your brother and then in a round about way you may be thanking the people that led your brother to his death.
Anne: Yeah well that’s just – that’s the paradox of this. We had to allow – we had to enter into this process and encourage those who had the information to come forward and give it to us. You know I wouldn’t be talking about remains in a forest being found if we hadn’t entered into that process and that process has been instrumental in finding these remains. And you know this will be the eighth body that has been found by the forensic team since 2006. So the process is there. The people are there. The experts are there to recover these bodies. They’re the ones that we need to be encouraging and this is why you know we need to keep appealing you know to those you may know something about the other disappeared to come forward.
Vinny: Well what would you say, Anne, because obviously you come from a point of unfortunate experience in terms of those three families, the families and friends of those people that are still ‘unfound’. You know what they’ll be going through so what would you say to them to try and encourage them to keep hope?
Anne: Well I would say to keep the hope in their hearts and then, if need be, if they have to go and talk to people who may have information or you know, that people that may be able to influence others to go to them, you know, and try and get this information. I think you know we have to support them, we have to support those three families because I can appreciate the support that I received through the years and a lot of that support came from the other families and also the WAVE trauma group and they were instrumental in keeping our spirits up. And the other families that are still waiting, they will appreciate that we who have had or who are going to have our loved ones back, that we will still be with them in spirit and encouraging them to keep going. (ends)
Note: On the date of this transcription, 10 May 2017, the ICLRV has confirmed the remains found in France are indeed Seamus Ruddy’s. May he (finally) rest in peace.