A priest who set up a website to help find people who go missing in Ireland has welcomed today’s launch of the first national missing persons day.
The launch at Farmleigh by the Minister for Justice, Equality and
Defence, Alan Shatter, will also be attended by the Garda Commissioner,
Martin Callinan, as well as more than 100 family members and friends of
Irish missing persons.
Dublin priest, Fr Aquinas Duffy, has urged the public to pray today
for the families of the missing, that they “would have the strength to
persevere.” He explained, “It is so easy to give up.”
Fr Duffy suggested that Churches could hold services where people “pray for an end to the searching, whatever that outcome is.”
Asked about those disappeared by the IRA and other terrorist
organisations, Fr Duffy appealed to anybody who has any information in
relation to those still missing to come forward.
“Those families – it is absolutely harrowing to see the way they have
been left waiting to have the privilege of a funeral,” he said.
The priest welcomed the decision by the State to make 4 December a
national day for the missing as it “gets people’s attention” and focuses
the media attention on the issue, which he said can help in promoting
individual cases of the missing.
“Hopefully there are people out there who have information and this
might just encourage them to come forward with that information.
Hopefully, if there are people thinking of actually going missing
voluntarily, this may actually prevent them from doing that,” he said.
Fr Duffy set up his website www.missing.ie in 2000 when his cousin Aengus Shanahan went missing on 11 February that year.
“The sad thing is that despite all the appeals through the website
and a lot of media exposure he has never been found. His family at this
point feel that he was murdered. And so they are in a situation like
some of the disappeared – looking to recover his body so that they can
have a funeral. That right has been denied them so far.”
He praised the way the Gardaí now handle cases of a missing person.
“I think things have changed for the better in the last number of
years as by and large the Gardaí do everything they can in trying to
locate a missing person and they try to act much more quickly now.”
“Back in 2000, they used to wait a few days before a person would be
declared officially missing. They know now that once there is any hint
of concern for the safety of the person they act immediately.”
“The other good thing that the Gardaí do now, which perhaps they
didn’t do back in the year 2000, is that they use the media more
immediately and in a much better way in order to publicise the case. The
Gardai need the eyes and the ears of the public to help them in the
According to Fr Duffy, while the national missing persons day is
welcome for the families as an important recognition of the issue by the
State, the families also appreciate other gestures such as the national
missing persons monument in Kilkenny.
It is located in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle and is constructed
from 80 hands of family members of missing persons.
“For many people it
stands instead of the grave that they don’t have, a place where the
families can go to reflect on their missing loved one – that is
something that is very helpful.”