What did you do, Jean? What in Jesus name did you do? You must have done something surely? Dear God, I can’t imagine it, not for a minute, I can’t believe it. A woman doesn’t just go and leave her family and her kids and not come back, not for nothing. Not without a good reason.

Were you scared, Jean? Sometimes I wonder how it all happened, how it all started, it just seems so mad. Were there any warnings, did you try to laugh them off – that wild laugh of yours – and did you ignore them? Did you not even go to the priest, like?

I still can’t believe it, what they said.

That smile on your face as you turned back into the house, a rare wintry blast of pale December light rippled right down the hall from the kitchen window, hit you full on the back of the head, like a holy corona; it lit you up and my heart exploded, I don’t know how to describe it, I never felt anything like that before. Maybe I knew it’d be the last time I saw you.

And you said, “Ah sure come on over in an hour or so, the pie will be out of the oven by then.”

An hour or so and you were gone.

That fella that hangs around by the chippy, you know the one who goes around picking up everyone’s stubbed out cigarette ends and tries to light them up again? He was the first one who said it. That Jean, he said, she should never have done that. Never.

Who are we? Where’d our humanity go? Jean’s a good woman, a good Catholic, that’s what good people do. Ah, but what would they know about goodness, their hearts have been eaten alive by hate.

Sometimes I wonder. I lie awake at night and let all kinds of bad thoughts feed on me, scare myself stupid sometimes. What did they do to you, Jean? Did they just take you out and put that bullet in the back of your head in the wild salty air?

I try to put myself in your place but I can’t. I’m a coward.



Jean McConville was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in December 1972. In 1999, the IRA admitted it had executed her but no one has ever been held to account for her death. Jean McConville was classified as one of The Disappeared. Her body was found on a beach in Co. Louth in 2003.

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”  (Sir Terry Pratchett). Never forgotten.