Where are they? – 900 long-term missing persons in Ireland

Image source: An Gardaí Síochána.

There are more than 900 long-term missing persons cases in this country. The public only hears of roughly 300 cases while nearly 9000 are reported every year.

By: Nimra Ahmed 

In the past, missing people were often reported in newspapers but today social media has made its way into each and every home as a helpful tool. A loved one may be missing, some are found alive while others might be found too late.

This is today’s scary reality. However, many investigations can remain open for years, leaving families in limbo hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. For these families going through the toughest time of their lives, not knowing if their loved ones are being exploited or abused, is a living hell!

According to the National Missing Persons Helpline, the public only hears of approximately 300 missing persons each year but there are far more undocumented cases. This service collects figures on the number of missing person cases made public through Garda appeals.

Figures released for 2022 by An Garda Síochána report 3257 – 7752 missing persons. Moreover, thirty-five people are still missing and have not yet been found. Between 9,300 and 9,600 reports for missing persons have been made since 2017 till date. Reports of children and teenagers disappearing tend to account for about three-quarters of these. 

Tulsa (the Child and Family Agency in Ireland) is an organization that cares for immigrant children. They are responsible for placing children in foster care. From 2017 to date, 54 unaccompanied children – children who arrive in Ireland without an adult looking after them – have gone missing while under Tusla’s care. According to the agency’s figures, only eighteen of those kids were found or were accounted for.  

As of 11 February 2022, 813 missing person cases remain open in Ireland, down from the 890 cases that were unresolved in December 2019. The longest-running case dates back to 1951. 

“Unfortunately, there is no such profile for missing people. They can come from all parts of society,” – Garda spokesperson

One such example of an adult gone missing is Anthony Kennedy (AK), 69, a teacher.https://www.hotpress.com/music/appeal-made-to-find-missing-dublin-musician-anthony-ak-kennedy-22894025

He was reported missing when one of his friends who Anthony was in constant contact with, couldn’t get in touch with him and informed his family. Anthony went missing from his home in Whitefriar Street, Dublin 8 on 21st February 2022. Unfortunately, on 3rd March 2022, his body was recovered from the Grand Canal, Portobello Harbour, Dublin after ten days. 

“Since AK was an older, mature adult the Gardaí did not seem overly concerned initially, however, they issued a missing person alert when days went by,” said AK’s friend, Catherine Ann Cullen, an award-winning poet. One can report a missing person and file a report with the Gardaí as soon as the person goes missing.

Social media has become a useful source that helps in quickly spreading awareness of a missing person. It helps in tracing the person’s whereabouts. In this case, Cullen organized the social media search. She used Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to inform people of AK’s absence and asked for help in locating him. 

In this age of misinformation, “his close friends were clear on when and where they had seen him last, but two possible sightings of him that were on social media, one by a former neighbour and one by a friend of a friend, turned out to be inaccurate if the Garda’s timing of his death is correct,” said Cullen.

“People responded immediately to express their concern on social media, but the first possible sighting report came three or four days after the first post,” added Cullen.

“Social media is a good way of spreading the news and photographs. The people who shared or made contact on social media were not anonymous, they were using their names. However, you can be anonymous, if you want, when calling a Garda helpline,” Cullen said.

Do the Garda have a common profile for people who go missing in Ireland? “Unfortunately, there is no such profile for missing people. They can come from all parts of society and even foreign nationals who are reported missing in Ireland can show up just about anywhere all over the world,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Scientific breakthroughs in DNA tracking and the formation of the National Missing Persons database in 2015, which is managed by Forensic Science Ireland, have played a vital role in solving many long-running missing person cases recently. 

The ‘National Missing Persons Day’ in Ireland is an annual day of commemoration and takes place on the first Wednesday in December each year. It complements the existing ‘International Missing Children’s Day’ commemorated on 25 May. 

Such days commemorate those who are missing and recognise the trauma of their families and friends. They also highlight open or unsolved missing persons cases, and provide information on available support services.

The national Missing Persons Helpline can be reached on 1800- 442 -552 or through this website.

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