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Columba McVeigh
The Disappeared

'Bitterly disappointing': Latest search for Columba McVeigh has ended

Columba McVeigh’s remains have yet to be found since he was last seen in November 1975.

A SEARCH OF a Co Monaghan site for the remains of one of the “Disappeared” has come to a “disappointing” end after the search team were unsuccessful in their search.

Columba McVeigh, 19, from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, was last seen in November 1975. Columba was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

He is one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles whose bodies have yet to be found.

UK and Irish Commissioners on the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR) announced that the latest search for Columba’s remains, at Bragan Bog, Co Monaghan, has been completed.

The search resumed in March after it was paused last November due to “dangerous” ground conditions. The results of the search were deemed “bitterly disappointing” by lead investigator Jon Hill.

“This was a particularly frustrating search for all concerned,” Hill said. 

Hill added that the search’s  final phase was “particularly challenging”.

“But every day we started in the hope that that would be the day we would find Columba and the disappointment that we haven’t is deeply felt by everyone on the search team whose hearts go out to the McVeigh family,” he added.

jon hill ICLVR lead investigator Jon Hill at the Co Monaghan site. Alamy Alamy

There have now been six total searches of the site in Monaghan since 1999, covering 26 acres of the bog in question. Hill said he remains convinced that Columba was taken to the bog and buried there 50 years ago.

“Equally I have no doubt that the information we have been working on was given in good faith. But we haven’t found him which can only mean that he’s not where we were told to look,” he added.

In a joint statement, the UK and Irish commissioners of the ICLVR, Rosalie Flanagan and Tim Dalton, said: “It is very disappointing that the latest search for Columba McVeigh has come to an end without finding his remains.”

Both commissioners commended the McVeigh family for their “remarkable courage and resilience over many years”.

“But they can be assured that the Commission will never close the book on a case while there is still the possibility that the information we need can be brought forward and acted upon,” they added.

searches Diggers taking part in the search for Columba's remains last year. LIAM MCBURNEY VIA PA IMAGES LIAM MCBURNEY VIA PA IMAGES

Justice minister Helen McEntee said today she was “saddened that, in spite of the substantial efforts of the Commission, the remains of Columba have not been located at Bragan Bog”.

McEntee said: “I want to acknowledge the unwavering and sustained determination of the Commission to locating Columba since the first search at Bragan Bog was conducted in 1999.

“I would like to thank the investigators, forensic archaeologists and machine contractors for their painstaking and sensitive work,” she added.

In May, ministers visited the search site. Then-justice minister Simon Harris appealed to anyone with information on the location of the remains of the Disappeared to come forward.

“During my time as Minister for Justice, I have been really struck by the incredible resilience of the families of the Disappeared. They’ve touched my heart and will always have a special place in it,” he said. 

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, a TD for Cavan and Monaghan, also joined the minister today to meet Columba’s brother Oliver and sister Dympna at the site.

searches 2 CF Minister Simon Harris and Minister Heather Humphreys visits Bragan Bog, Monaghan in May. Christina Finn / The Journal Christina Finn / The Journal / The Journal

Anyone with information on any of the four outstanding ICLVR Disappeared cases —Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Maguire— should contact the ICLVR.

The ICLVR can be contacted by phone on 00800 5558 5500, international +353 1 602 8655 or by email at