Archbishop Eamon Martin made his appeal during a Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral yesterday

The Archbishop of Armagh has appealed to anyone who has information about the individuals who disappeared during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to come forward.

During a Mass yesterday for families who still don’t know what happened to their missing loved ones, Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “All across this island, in Britain and beyond, there are people on all sides who carry secrets – memories of their own involvement in the deaths and injury of thousands of men, women and children. In some cases they pulled the trigger, planted the bomb, blindly followed orders or gave the command for death or punishment. In other cases they willingly drove a car, kept watch, spread fear, collected money or information, sheltered combatants, colluded or covered up, destroyed evidence or intimidated witnesses.

“These were awful, terrible times. Shocking and horrific things happened. There must be so many people walking around today who know in their hearts that the information that they have locked down inside them is capable of unlocking the uncertainty and grief of families.”

He went on to say: “Today I appeal again to the conscience of anyone who can help with the cases of Joe Lynskey, Robert Nairac, Seamus Ruddy and Columba McVeigh to bring even the slightest clues to the commissioners’ attention so that the agonising wait of the remaining families can be shortened and their loved ones can at last have a Christian burial.”

The Disappeared are the victims who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Mass for The Disappeared is an annual event which takes place every Palm Sunday at St Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh, to remember those who are still missing.

Extensive investigations have been carried out by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, established in 1999, but four out of the 16 missing bodies have never been found.

The archbishop noted that time was running out for investigations into the missing persons.

He said: “People have become more conscious recently of the urgency of developing appropriate mechanisms for truth-telling about the past, and the sharing of information that will ease the endless questioning, and calm the restless yearning for clarity that still imprisons so many families here. Those who were involved and who hold vital clues and information are getting older and some are dying. Memories are fading. The will to engage is perhaps waning. Family members of victims are themselves getting older. Some have already gone to their rest; others have grown frail and are no longer able to join us here.

“But the unanswered questions do not disappear with death. They linger on, as a constant nagging reminder to the next generation of unfinished business, of a grief that is unsatisfied with silence, a pain that does not go away but lies beneath, an unhealed wound that is passed on from children to grandchildren.”

Reflecting on the fidelity of Christ’s followers, Archbishop Martin praised the courage and witness of the families of The Disappeared, saying: “Today, when I think of that gathering of faithful followers who did not give up on Jesus, I cannot help but think of your dedicated and sometimes lonely vigil as you wait or waited for news of your beloved Disappeared. You have remained faithful to them and to each other over many years.

“It is particularly moving that so many of you whose relatives were found have continued to come here in solidarity with others. Together we still gather each Palm Sunday, hoping against hope, that even at this late stage someone will come forward with fresh or more precise information to help the Independent Commission with its search.”