Minister Flanagan hosts sixth annual national Missing Persons Day ceremony at King’s Inns
5 December 2018
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, today hosted the commemorative ceremony at King’s Inns to mark the sixth annual national Missing Persons Day.
Missing Persons Day is an annual day of commemoration which takes place on the first Wednesday in December each year. It commemorates those who have gone missing and recognises the lasting trauma for their families and friends. It also draws attention to open or unsolved missing persons cases, and creates an opportunity to provide information on available support services.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Flanagan said: “Missing Persons Day provides a national platform to raise awareness of ambiguous loss beyond the community directly affected. The Day also highlights the important work of many organisations, such as An Garda Síochána, Forensic Science Ireland and community and voluntary organisations throughout the country. These organisations provide valuable and ongoing support to families and friends of missing persons.”
Missing Persons Day was first launched on 4 December 2013 and has since been developed into an annual campaign in partnership with organisations working in this area.
Today’s ceremony was attended by the families and friends of missing persons, a number of whom spoke at the event. Other speakers at today’s ceremony included the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, and Dr Dorothy Ramsbottom from Forensic Science Ireland (FSI). Music was provided by Mount Anville Junior Choir, soloists Julieanne Forrest and Joe O’Grady, and the Garda Band. The National Missing Persons Helpline provided an information point at the ceremony. This year’s ceremony marked the third year of the FSI/An Garda Síochána facility to collect DNA samples from close family members.
The Minister referred to the vital contribution made by forensic science in matching family DNA stored on the national DNA database with unidentified remains and commended FSI and An Garda Síochána for a number of successful DNA matches that have been made this year.
The Minister said: “I want to pay tribute to the FSI and An Garda Síochána. These successes provide tangible hope for many other families.”
The ceremony concluded with the symbolic release of homing pigeons.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Speech by Minster for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD,
at the National Missing Persons Day Ceremony, King’s Inns
5 December 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen, Commissioner, Minister Stanton. Good Morning. And welcome, one and all, to our annual ceremony to mark national Missing Persons Day.
This is Ireland’s sixth Missing Persons Day - our sixth commemorative ceremony. And I know that many of you here today have attended several of these ceremonies over the years.
I keenly remember last year, as it was my first time to attend. And while I am privileged, as Minister for Justice and Equality to attend many events, I found the ceremony to mark Missing Persons Day in 2017 extremely moving. It has stayed with me over the past 12 months.
I was struck by the sincere and direct expressions of love and loss from the families who spoke at last year’s ceremony. In a world where, all too often, the cleverly-crafted soundbite seems to rule, the brave, heartfelt communication from the family speakers was incredibly poignant and powerful. Their messages will always be relevant:
That family love is constant;
That there will always be a commitment to keep searching for the truth;
That the pledge to never forget your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your sister, your brother, endures.
I can also recall vividly the supportive, caring environment at Farmleigh. It created a secure, receptive space for families to speak with confidence. And while it is only possible for a small number of families to speak at the ceremony each year, the demeanour of the collective whole last year spoke volumes.
Yes it was an emotional day and what I remember is the contrast in emotion. Sadness and hope - these two opposing emotions are constant companions travelling the same road as you, the families and friends of those who are missing. We all make a conscious effort to hold onto hope during the most difficult times in our lives. But we need to remember to carry your sadness with us also:
We need to be able to recall this sadness to communicate more sensitively and constructively;
We need to be able to draw on this sadness to support you more effectively in seeking answers to the many questions you have.
Missing Persons Day provides a necessary national platform to communicate this sadness and to raise awareness of ambiguous loss beyond the community directly affected. And so I want to warmly welcome those who are today’s family speakers:
Gerry - whose sister Imelda is missing 24 years;
Clare - whose son Paul was missing for 9 years;
Helen - whose brother JP is missing 10 years this year;
Alan - whose father was missing for 33 years.
Welcome, and thank you.
Welcome and thanks too, to a number of other people…..
Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris… I have no doubt that your first Missing Persons Day ceremony will be as memorable as each of ours was. I want to thank you and your colleagues, the members of An Garda Síochána for the professional and compassionate service they provide to the families of missing people. In particular, I wish to thank the Garda Missing Persons Bureau and the network of Family Liaison Officers situated around the country for their vital roles in investigating missing persons’ incidents and communicating with affected families.
I had the pleasure to launch an important partnership in June this year between An Garda Síochána and Facebook - the CRI Alert partnership with Facebook is a wonderful example of using social media in a positive way for the good of society and, in particular, for the protection of vulnerable children. The importance of this partnership became swiftly evident with the launch of the first CRI alert on Facebook account holders’ news feed just last week. Thankfully, the outcome was a positive one and I commend all involved.
I would like to welcome our new Commissioner Tim Dalton. Sir Ken Bloomfield, our other Commissioner was not able to be with us, but Tim is, along with other members of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your steadfast support for national Missing Persons Day over the years and also to pay tribute to the late Commissioner, Frank Murray. To Frank’s family, here today, I offer my sincere condolences.
I also want to welcome Wave Trauma Centre and each of the families that have travelled with Wave to attend today’s ceremony. Wave has been providing essential cross-community support to families for more than 25 years. National Missing Persons Day is an all-Ireland ceremony and we greatly appreciate Wave’s presence each year. I am also delighted to welcome Constable Yvonne Younger, representing the PSNI.
I extend a warm welcome to the many support organisations that are here: the National Missing Persons Helpline, Searching for the Missing, search and rescue organisations and other voluntary and community groups. Thank you for all that you do for families and friends of missing people. Thank you also for contributing to the Missing Persons Day ceremony since its inception. My Department values its partnership with you.
I welcome Forensic Science Ireland and FSI’s speaker, today, Dr. Dorothy Ramsbottom. Dr. Ramsbottom has spoken before at Missing Persons Day and I am very pleased that she will speak again, this year. I know most of you here will be very aware of the wonderful successes achieved this year in matching family DNA stored on the FSI’s DNA database with unidentified remains. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the FSI and An Garda Síochána. These successes provide tangible hope for many other families.
I want to commend a number of other key partnerships that contribute so much to national Missing Persons Day:
This year marks the third year that FSI and An Garda Síochána will operate a facility after today’s ceremony for the purpose of collecting further DNA samples from close family members;
Feis Ceoil has reached out to many talented singers and musicians since the inaugural Missing Persons Day ceremony in 2013. Music is synonymous with commemoration and I want to thank our wonderfully gifted singers and musicians who are performing today;
Symbolism is also an important aspect of commemorative ceremonies and the annual homing pigeons ceremony is very evocative in its conveying of hope, which I spoke about earlier. I want to extend my sincere thanks to Susan and Paddy Maples who have generously provided the homing pigeons for this ceremony for four years.
Finally, I would like to speak about my Department’s partnership with Barry Cummins, Master of Ceremonies, which is now in its sixth year. Barry contributes so much to the planning of national Missing Persons Day on a completely voluntary basis and gives so freely of his time. Barry’s detailed knowledge of the cases of Ireland’s missing persons, together with the genuine relationships he has nurtured with families over many years make for a truly special ceremony every year. Thank you, Barry.
I wish each of you and your families a peaceful and healthy Christmas.