National Missing Persons Day
10th December 2015
Wednesday 2 December 2015 has been designated National Missing Persons Day. This was the third year that the Irish Government has marked this day at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin. It is an opportunity to remember missing people and their families. It is also an opportunity to encourage those who have information to come forward and for those who are missing and alive to make contact. The day is also about acknowledging all the organisations and individuals who are involved in highlighting the issue of missing persons and assisting families in their search.
This year Dympna Kerr, sister of Columba McVeigh who disappeared in 1975 and Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Commissioner for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains spoke about Columba’s disappearance and the work of ICLVR in locating the bodies of those missing.
Dympna said: "I would liketo thank Minister Fitzgerald, the Department of Justice and Equality and Barry Cummins for the opportunity for me and other Families of the Disappeared to be part of this powerful and moving event today. It’s so important to us. My brother Columba was 19 when went off to Dublin from our home in Donaghmore Co Tyrone to start a job in 1975. Like every Irish mother, mum wanted to make sure he had all he needed and as much as she loved him she knew he wouldn’t do it himself and so it was my job to get him clothes and things. I saw himonto the bus. He would write home to Mum and in a letter he wrote about seeing Eamon DeValera’s funeral in Dublin. He signed it‘ From your big son, Columba’. It was his last letter home. And then nothing. People go missing all the time we were told. Perhaps he’dgone to England for another job. Maybe he’s gone to America with a girl friend to start a new life. I don’t know if my Mum and Dad got hope from the ‘perhap’s’ and ‘maybes’. I doubt it. I do know that they were devastated by the silence as year followed year. And then we were told in 1999, 24 long years later, that Columba was never coming home. And that opened another chapter of pain and despair that hasn’t ended. Columba was murdered by the IRA and secretly buried in Bragan Bog Co Monaghan. He is still missing. Columba was born on 27 September 1955. He wasmurdered 20 years later. But that wasn’t the end. Until we are able to bring him home to give him a Christian burial and to know that he rests beside our Mum and Dad this torment is not ended. I don’t knowif ‘closure’ is ever the right word but there will be a ‘completeness’ and that is what we pray for. And what sustains us is the support we get from good people the length and breadth of Ireland and beyond. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, supported by the two Governments, does truly remarkable work and all the Families of the Disappeared know just how committed Geoff Knupfer and Jon Hill who lead the searches for the Disappeared are to finding Columba and the others who are yet to be found.
Without WAVE and Sandra Peake in particular the Families of the Disappeared would not have a voice. The Families of the Disappeared are one family in a sense. We support each other, there are many of them here today and we all share the pain of those who still wait and the indescribable relief of those whose loved ones have been found. There were 16 Disappeared now there are four. I pray for the day when they are all brought home for Christian burial."
Missing Persons Day ends with a symbolic placing of roses on a small pond at Farmleigh House. 25 members of the families of the disappeared support group travelled to Missing Persons Day in support of those families whose loved ones remain missing. Kieran Megraw whose brother Brendan disappeared in 1978 and whose body was recovered on the 1st October 2014 commented that Missing Persons Day gives an opportunity for families with similar experiences to meet together: "As Brendan’s body was recovered last year and we were able to lay him to rest, this gives hope to other families that after so many years a Christian burial is possible." ‘Missing Person’s Day also creates greater opportunities for families and agencies to work together and for many families it reduces the terrible isolation the disappearance of a loved ones brings’.
Further information on Missing Persons Day can be found at www.missing.ie