President of Ireland and Taoiseach lead tributes to Commissioner of Disappeared
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar led tributes to Frank Murray, the Irish government’s representative on the independent commission responsible for the finding the remains of those murdered and “disappeared” during the Troubles.
Mr Murray, who had been co-commissioner of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) for more than a decade, died suddenly last Saturday. He was in his late seventies.
The ICLVR was set up to find the remains of people abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles. President Higgins said the former career civil servant held the respect of members of the Government right across the political spectrum.
“As a public servant, in a distinguished career, he held the respect of members of the Government right across the political spectrum.
“I have the warmest memories of his service in the 1990s.
“After his retirement, to his native Leitrim – for he was a proud Leitrim man – he went on to serve the State in a most valuable way, including in the search of the Disappeared.
“To his family and friends, I offer my deepest condolences.” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described Mr Murray as “an exceptional public servant” and praised the “professionalism and sensitivity he brought to his work over the past number of years at the Independent Commission.”
He extended his deepest sympathies to his wife Maureen, children Geraldine, Paul, Catherine and Ciara and to his extended family. The family should, he said, take consolation and great pride in his service to Ireland. He joined the Civil Service in 1960 rising to the Irish civil service’s highest rank, Secretary General to the Government, a post he held for seven years – including leading up to, during, and after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – before his retirement in 2000. In 2007 he replaced the late John Wilson as the Government’s representative on the organization ICVLR.
Former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Kenneth Bloomfield who worked alongside him on the Commission said Ireland had lost a great man: “His distinguished career in the Irish Civil Service was in itself notable but in our joint efforts to recover remains he did his utmost to ensure a Christian burial, however belated, for many grieving relatives.
“It has been a privilege to know and work with him. He will be greatly missed by all who benefited from his wisdom and unalloyed decency.”
Last week Mr Murray attended a special service for the relatives of the Disappeared in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. Former president Mary McAleese said Frank Murray could have gone into retirement after many years service to the state but instead chose to take on the role of Victims’ Commissioner.
She said: “He committed himself to that really singularly difficult task of trying to find the disappeared, painstaking work that called for the most endless patience but also endless push, the relentlessness of that patience never to give up and that’s what I’ve always admired about him”.
His death was “just the end of a great, great Irishman”, she said.The families of the disappeared expressed their own shock and sadness at the news.
Sandra Peake from the Wave Trauma Centre, which works to support the relatives, said they had been shocked and saddened by his death: “His calm compassion and quiet determination to see it through even or perhaps especially when a search had been unsuccessful gave the families comfort and reassurance that they would not be abandoned. He will be missed and will not be forgotten.”
The remains of thirteen of the Disappeared have been recovered to date and Mr Murray had hoped that the bodies of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and British Army Captain Robert Nairac would also be found.