Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Commencement Matters

Missing Persons

10:30 am

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

It is great to have the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, back in the House. Some Members may be aware that in recent weeks the remains of two people who had been missing for a significant period were identified. The process of reuniting them with their loved ones and giving them a dignified burial will happen, if it has not happened. It is a wonderful end to a tragedy that these families will be able to give their loved ones, who were missing for decades, a Christian and respectful burial. It closes a chapter that had dominated their lives for decades. This has happened as a result of the development of DNA profiling and technologies in that area. Such development is ongoing. As a result of recent DNA developments, it has been possible to identify the two remains and return them to their families.

As part of that process, it has come to my attention through the media and from watching people like Barry Cummins, who have done phenomenal work in raising these issues and keeping them in the media spotlight, that an audit has not been done of unidentified remains in this country. There are unmarked graves and unidentified remains in morgues and in other areas of this country. I call for an audit of all the unidentified remains and, also, the provision of a budget to further enable DNA profiling to see if more of these missing persons cases can be resolved.

Like other Members, I attended the National Missing Persons Day commemorative ceremony in Farmleigh House a few years ago. In all I have done in public life it was probably one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever been at. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, was chair of the Oireachtas committee on justice at the time. and he and I travelled to it. It was an incredibly moving occasion. Deputy Frances Fitzgerald was the Minister for Justice and Equality at the time and Nóirín O'Sullivan was the Garda Commissioner, and they both attended. Families shared their stories of what they were going through on a daily basis in dealing with the fact that there was no closure for them. The format of what happens at one of these missing persons days is that if it is the 10th, 20th, 30th or, in some cases, the 40th anniversary of a missing person, the stories and experiences of those families are shared. It is an opportunity for all those families to come together and share their experiences and stories. People even travel from England and the United States for that day.

I request the Minister of State, in the first instance, to ensure an audit is carried out of all the unidentified remains that exist in this State and, second, to increase the funding to carry out the critical DNA profiling given that the technologies and the methodologies have advanced so much. If it brings closure to one family, it would be wonderful. I contend that with the advancement in the profiling that has taken place it will bring closure to many families.


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