National Missing Persons Day was launched this week (4th of December 2014) in Farmleigh House by the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minster for Justice Equality and Defence Alan Shatter TD. The first Wednesday in December from hereonin will now be known as National Missing Persons Day.
It was a very emotive day for everybody attending who had loved ones or relatives that are missing even the Minister Alan Shatter became emotive during his speech when he spoke of Philip Cairns who went missing from Ballyroan South Dublin on the 23rd of October 1986, 27 years ago. Philip was on his way back to school when he went missing.
Many heads were bowed in silence, memories flooding back as Barry Cummins MC for the proceedings listed some of the people who have never been found, Annie Mc Carrick missing 26/03/93, Jo Jo Dullard missing 09/11/95, and Deirdre Jacob 28/07/99 to mention but a few.
Commissioner Callinan in his address said that An Garda Siochana was often the first port of call when someone goes missing. On average 165 reports of missing people are made to An Garda Siochana each week. He spoke of the agonising wait for information. Thankfully most people are located in a relatively short time with the help of external agencies who dedicate their time and efforts to assisting the civil authority.
Minister for Justice Equality & Defence Alan Shatter TD thanked all the voluntary bodies Missing in Ireland Support Services (MISS) Missing Persons Association, Searching for the Missing Organisation, The Department of Defence, Civil Defence and other voluntary bodies who are all waiting to assist whenever they are receive the call.
“We are joined here today by family members of some of our missing persons. I know that the grief and sense of loss each of you have experienced is indistinguishable. I hope I will be forgiven for mentioning only Philip Cairns. Among us this morning is Philip’s sister, Sandra, and his mother, Alice, who I am privileged to have joining me later in a tree planting ceremony.
“Philip’s disappearance, on his way back to Colaiste Eanna school in Ballyroan, Rathfarnham, after lunch at home on 12th October 1986, was my first personal experience as a young TD of someone inexplicably disappearing. Since that time, whenever I learn of someone missing, I always think of Philip, the distress of his family following that terrible day and the dreadful feeling of helplessness when time continued to pass and there was no information about him forthcoming. I know this is a feeling shared by those of you here with us this morning who have a missing family member.
“Finally, I want to take the opportunity, once again, to acknowledge the role of the Transition Year Students of Davis College, Mallow, Co. Cork who were awarded ‘Young Social Innovators of the Year 2012’ for their work in calling for a national Missing Persons Day. The students have joined us here today and I want to welcome Jacqui Walsh, student representative, to say a few words about their excellent ‘Forget Me Not’ awareness campaign,” concluded Minister Shatter.
Dermot Browne Chairperson of the Missing in Ireland Support Service spoke of the anguish felt by family members lonely tearful nights, “the air of hope when the doorbell rings that the person standing of the far side of the front door will be that person who has been missing. Christmas can be a very lonely time but you always live in hope that someday they will return.”
On a lighter note we had music from the Preston Vocal Academy while in the background the images of missing people were displayed on a screen. Celine Byrne Soprano was accompanied by the Garda Band and Preston Vocal Academy.
Olivia Burke age 12 sang her song “Missing” that she recoded in aid of MISS and Helen Grealsi recited a poem “Searching for the Missing” that she dedicated in memory of her brother JP who went missing in the Netherlands.
A special mention for Sergeant Brenda Fields, Missing Persons Bureau, Garda Headquarters who was involved with Vodafone in the development of the CRI Alert App and organising Missing Persons Day. Well done to all concerned.
Photos by Alan Dowley