Missing People Ireland

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ellen Coss Brown (Dublin)

Ellen Coss Brown (Dublin)

Ellen disappeared on November 3rd 1999 in Hollyhead while returning from Manchester.

Born: 30/4/49

Age: 51

Height: 5ft 3

Hair: brown going grey and (tied back)

Eyes: blue/grey

Softly spoken, Slight build, Strong jaw line, Non-smoker/non-drinker

She took many jobs including hairdressing and house cleaning (so may be working in any of those jobs).Originally from Ballyfermot but living in Windy Arbour for the last 9 years.
Ellen disappeared on November 3rd 1999 in Hollyhead while returning from Manchester where she had recently visited her sister,Bertha Lee nee Brown.
She has been an active member of both AWARE and GINGERBREAD.
Ellen was separated for many years with an adult son Peter aged 30 who is living in London.
She has not contacted her relatives.
Ellen was involved in the Windy Arbour/Dundrum community.
She had a love of traditional Irish music and walking.
After her disappearance there were a number of reported sightings of Ellen. But her family are satisfied that these sightings were of people who looked looked like her.
Her whole family are concerned about her whereabouts including her brothers Tom and James-William.
Anybody with any information regarding the whereabouts of Ellen should contact her brother Tom Brown at +353-1-2961286 0r the Gardai at the Bridewell Garda Station telephone +353-1-6668200 or any Garda Station or Greater Manchester Police or email below.

Sign Our Online Petition!

Online petition@ http://www.petitiononline.com/missing1/petition.html

Please sign and circulate widely..


The issue of missing people affects everyone in Irish Society. It can strike any family at any time, rich, poor, men, women, children, people of all races and creed, all ages, farmers, townspeople, no-one is immune from it. It’s only when someone belonging to you actually goes missing that makes you aware of how much a properly funded missing Persons Help line is needed. By then unfortunately it is too late…

We the undersigned demand a properly funded all-Ireland Missing Persons Helpline as a matter of urgency in order to adequately address the issues for those missing and those left behind.
Sincerely,

Information about www.missing.ws

Why this website was started

When I first started this website in May 2000, except for the Garda Siochana Website, there was no other Irish website offering people the facility to post messages about relatives who are missing. The Garda Siochana now have an excellent website with a section on missing persons. This website has been setup to help find my cousin (Aengus Shanahan), and also to provide the facility for other Irish people to place their information there also. In addition to the web address www.missing.ws it can also be accessed with addresses missingirishpeople.com and missinginireland.com
Helpline

There was in Ireland, a National Missing Persons Helpline which was run by Victim Support for two and half years. Our thanks to all who campaigned and made this possible. Sadly it ceased on March 31st 2005 due to funding being withdrawn by the Dept of Justice.

In the event of a loved one being missing in the U.K. there is the UK National Missing Persons Helpline. They operate a service whereby those who are missing can call them and they will pass on information to the family. They also have a website (see also their teletext slot on ITV TV P.346). They are also good enough to provide a free phone service for people phoning from the Republic of Ireland. They are a charitable organization and depend on donations. Their phone number from Ireland is 0044 -20-8392 4545 and the free phone number from Ireland is 00 800 7000 7001 or free phone from UK is 0500 700 700.

Missing Persons Association

In 2002, following the campaigning for a state aided helpline, we formed the missing persons association. To learn more about its work see the Missing Persons Association Page on this website.
What you Can Do?

Please spend some time reviewing the Missing Persons Page and photos and perhaps you could be the person who will help locate a missing person. There are a number of reasons why a person would go missing, sometimes known only to him or her. One phone call from them would be enough to put their families' minds at ease. Where a person has been abducted and taken against their will, there are always people who have information which can lead to the recovery of a body or to information leading the authorities to the place of their captivity. Any information that you can give can help.

Please also link your site to this site at http://www.missing.ws/ and tell people about missing.ws. You can also download a banner to use on your site. Other redirect domain names for the site are missingirishpeople.com and missinginireland.com.

Please also print off the missing posters on some of the pages and display them in your work place or home (it is an offense in some areas to place a poster in a public place so do not break local litter laws).

Remember also the anniversaries of missing.
Facts and Figures
It is important to note that any person over 18 years of age is entitled in law to go missing of their own free will. That is the reason also why most missing persons' websites will not accept a submission of a missing person's details unless the case has been reported to a law enforcement agency (Police). Indeed, hard as it may be to imagine, some missing persons, may not want to be found. But families who have a son or daughter missing just want to know that their loved ones are ok. Knowing this alone would be a source of great help.

Every year, there are 2000+ people reported missing to the Gardai. 99% of these cases are resolved. For the 1% that are not resolved (20+ a year), their families must live with the uncertainty. Where a person over 18 has made obvious plans to leave, are not suffering from any mental or physical disability and are not in any apparent risk, then there is no guarantee that their case will be accepted by the Gardai as a missing persons report.

A distinction was made up to Autumn 2003 between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" cases. The terms "acceptable" and "unacceptable" are used to distinguish betwen two categories of missing persons. The term "acceptable" referred to a) persons under 18 years, b) aged persons, c) physically or mentally disabled persons, or d) persons whose disappearance takes place in circumstances which give rise to fears for the person's physical or moral safety. After 2003, these classifications changed to Categories A, B, and C.

"Category A" covers the reports which require immediate action on the assumption that the missing person is at serious risk, such as child abdution or possible suicide threats."
"Category B" refers to persons who may have disappeared of their own volition and are asumed not to be at any immediate risk such as persons who have a reason to leave or have left a note stating that they do not intend to return.

"Category C" includes reports where there is no apparant threat of danger to the missing person or the public such as a person over 18 who has decided to start a new life.

The statistics from the Garda Annual Reports are below:

Year Acceptable Unacceptable Untraced
1999 1800 691 20
2000 1806 673 22
2001 2123 612 67
2002 2337 446 74

Reported Missing

2003 3987 76

Year A Untraced B Untraced C Untraced Total Untraced
2004 2612 44 1531 22 917 17 5060 83
2005 3277 37 1559 21 1161 17 5997 75
For the Garda Annual reports See Garda Annual Report@ http://www.garda.ie/angarda/annreport.html
To Those Who are Missing

The word "missing" in no way describes the sense of helplessness, frustration, anger, and despair that goes through one's mind. Always, there is the desire to know where is he or she now and what happened to him or her. If one is a person of faith, then it is a real challenge to one's faith. It makes one realise that we depend on each other and that's why we need your help and ask you to keep your eyes open and on the look out for those who are missing. If you are a person who is missing, please do phone home or contact this webmaster. It is enough to know that you are alive and your privacy will be respected. (See "Another page addressed to those who are missing").
Getting Details Posted on this Site

If you have a loved one who is missing and that you would like included on this website, I ask that you send whatever information and photos (in .jpg format) that you have to info@missing.ws or you can use the send report form (but PLEASE make sure that you give a valid email address). Please also give details of the police agency that you have reported the case to. While I am limited by time and resources, I will do my best to facilitate others in placing their information on this website. Together we can highlight the plight of families who have someone missing and involve the public in being on the alert. It is perhaps Ireland's greatest secret, that there are so many who have disappeared and whose cases remain unresolved.

The Lost Contacts section of the website also has many messages from people looking for lost Irish family contacts. You might be able to help there. If you would like details posted on this site, use the form and reply to email when contacted by webmaster. Please state your family relationship and your full contact details including a valid email address (which will not appear on the website). There are also agencies in England who for a fee can do a search of marriage, birth and death and other records. One such agency is people tracer which also does searches in Ireland and elsewhere.You will find an excellent list of addresses in the UK in the links section of Julies People Search Site. Before filling out a request for a missing person or lost contact appeal, PLEASE READ instructions first to see if you meet the criteria required.

There is only one person (Aquinas Duffy) looking after this website in a voluntary capacity, so please be patient as regards a reply.


See also some helpful tips sent by the relative of a missing person and also a poem and prayer for the Missing.

Postal mail can be sent to:

Aquinas Duffy

156B Rathgar Road,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6,

Ireland.

(Phone: mobile/text message 00-353-86-8370861)

Thank You
Thank you to all who have helped to promote this site and thank you for taking the time to visit the website.


Missing Persons Association

Missing Persons Association: A Brief History
The Missing Irish People website (www.missing.ws ) was established in May 2000 by Fr Aquinas Duffy, following the disappearance of his cousin, Limerick Man Aengus Shanahan. In 2001, Mr David Linehan from Cork requested that the details of his missing father be placed on the website. His father was subsequently found deceased by his family. It was shortly after this tragedy that David Linehan and Cormac Cremin and Fr Aquinas Duffy (who continues to run the website) and others set about campaigning for a helpline and for better resources for the families of missing people.

A link up of all the families on the website was formed so that we could keep in touch with each other or put people who had someone missing in touch with some of the families. A limited helpline was also set up with an oncall paging system. After much campaigning and many media interviews, a state aided helpline for the families of the missing was established by victim support an dran for two and a half years with the hjelp of a grant formt eh dept of Justice. It ceased on 31st March 2005 as a result of funding being withdrawn by the Dept of Justice.
The Missing Persons Association was formed in 2002 to bring together groups and people whose aim is to locate missing persons. It can help with both the search for missing people and also to highlight the issue of missing persons. The MPA now has its own rescue boat in Cork and is able to do land and river searches in conjunction with the Mallow inshore search and rescue and the Canine search and rescue (Cork).

The MPA is also available to families for advice and for assisting families where possible. All of its members are voluntary. The Missing Irish People website is also linked to and associated with the MPA.

MPA also has a 24 hour paging system if people need to contact them in relation to a missing person (087-9609885). The MPA now has charitable status (charity number 14826) with a registered account with Lough Credit union,Bandon road Cork City (Account No 73951V).
The MPA is grateful to Gecas Shannon who presented a donation in 2003 which enabled us to run an advertising campaign, purchase underwater equipment, and to have the website redesigned.

For more information write to Mr David Linehan, 60 Innishannon Road, Fairhill, Cork City Ireland or contact can be made through this website.
An Appeal from the Secretary
To Whom it Concerns,

The Missing persons association is a Voluntary organization, of highly trained personal, who are available to assist Families of missing persons, in trying to find missing people.
We offer practical support and advice to those who need it, we in conjunction with other voluntary organizations, such as Mallow Search and Rescue, also conduct searches both on land and water.

So that there is no misunderstanding about the status of the people we search for, it is not just missing people who are deceased, we also search for Missing persons who are alive.

We also offer the services of our associate Fr. Aquinas Duffy, webmaster of www.missing.ws where we can put missing persons photographs and details, This is then made available to the world wide public to view and the details stay on the site until the missing person is found.
We strongly advise people who report a loved one missing to the Gardai that the next call you should make should be to the missing persons association.

We can be contacted twenty four hours a day on 087-9609885.
Our services are free of charge.
It is important to note that 99%of people who go missing are found safe and well.
Finally if anybody out there has information on any Missing person, do what you know in your heart is right, and pass the information on to the Gardaí or to the missing persons association (087-9609885).
All calls will be treated in strict confidence.
Yours Sincerely
David Linehan
Sec M.P.A

Information on Missing in Ireland Support Services: www.miss.ie


Who we are


Missing in Ireland Support Service (MISS) is a non-denominational, non-political, non-profit, voluntary organisation. We were established in 2003 by Dermot Browne following a 13-week search for his missing son. During this time he experienced at first hand the lack of information and support available on the ground, for families and friends of Missing Persons. Having consulted with other families who had undergone a similar experience it was decided to establish a Support Group and the organisation was launched in November 2003.


The operation of MISS is overseen by a Committee which is elected at the Annual General Meeting. New members are always welcome, annual membership fee is €5. If you would like to become a member please email our Secretary at ………. From 2003 until March 2005 MISS worked in conjunction with and acted as a referral service for the Irish Missing Persons Helpline. The Helpline was funded by the Department of Justice and Law Reform and staffed by Tony O’Connell under the auspices of the Victim Support Organisation. Callers to the Helpline who requested help were offered the services of MISS and referred to us for further assistance. With the demise of the Helpline, our primary source of contact for the time being, is by telephone after 6pm daily

What we do


The primary aim of Missing in Ireland Support Service is to support families and individuals who have a relative, colleague or friend who is officially classified as “missing”. Our support service can take many forms and will generally be aimed at responding to the individual needs and circumstances of the family or person contacting us. In order to provide a more focussed service MISS has arranged a professionally-delivered Training Course for volunteers (see MISS Training). Some funding has been put at our disposal by the Family Support Agency (FSA) and allows us limited access to a Counsellors. The organisation may also engage in educational and publicity programmes aimed at creating an awareness of the consequences of Missing Persons.

Contact us


If you are missing a friend or family member and feel that we can help please contact us on 087 900 6255 (after 6pm daily) or by e-mail at info@miss.ie.


We regret that we cannot provide assistance unless the person is officially listed on the Garda Missing Persons list. If you have a missing loved one and are unsure of what to do please read the following section for our advice on “What to do when somebody is missing”.

What you can do...

When someone you care about is missing it is often hard to know what you should do or where to turn for support. It is important to remember that people go missing for a variety of reasons.

In some cases the person may be escaping from real or perceived family or personal conflict. Others may be trying to assert their independence or taking time out. Some simply forget to make contact.


The first step is to file a report with the Gardai if you have concerns for the safety or welfare of your missing family member or friend.
There is certain information that Gardai will ask you to provide, including:-
The persons full name and any aliases they use.
Place and date of birth.
A complete description of the person including any distinguishing features, such as tattoos, birth marks or scars.
A recent, clear and preferably colour photograph.
Details of where and when the person was last seen or heard from.
What the person was wearing including any jewellery.
A contact list of the persons friends, relatives and colleagues.
A list of places the person frequents such as clubs, shopping centres, hotels, parks, amusement arcades or restaurants.
Bank account and credit card details.
Details of any vehicle owned or used by the person.
Details of any medications the person may require and what it is used to treat
.


Depending on the circumstances you may choose to use the services of tracing organisations such as the Salvation Army or International Missing Persons Organisations. These agencies may not require the same information as Gardai. They could ask for other details, especially if the person was last seen or heard from while overseas or living in a conflict zone or natural disaster area.


It will help if you also provide information about:-


Any behavioural changes, personal, medical or emotional problems the person may have experienced before they went missing.
Occasions when the person has been missing previously, including details about where they were found.
You will also need to:-


Check if the missing persons belongings such as their wallet, handbag, clothing, suitcase, passport, mobile telephone or other items are missing.
Search through the persons address book, diary, briefcase or school bag for clues as to where they may have gone.


Phone the missing persons friends, colleagues and relatives to check when they last had contact or if they have any useful information.
Provide your case officer with updates about any information you come across, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
Keep your case officer informed about your own inquiries or search activities.
Notify your case officer immediately if your missing person returns home or makes contact with friends or family.


Keep a comprehensive contact list of people involved in the search, including tracing organisation personnel and the name, rank, station and contact details f police.
While this is obviously a distressing time it may help you to know that most people reported missing in Ireland are found, often within just a few days.

Please don't hesitate to contact Gardai or your tracing organisation if you have any questions or wish to supply additional information.


National Missing Persons Helpline (U.K)

Having been involved with the Homeless Community for quite a while now, on an almost daily basis I would receive calls from people with Missing relatives or friends. Many of these calls are in desperation as they do not who to call and there is a possibility that their loved ones are living rough on the streets.

It’s very hard to be precise about the amount of people who go missing every year. Opinions differ on who counts as a missing person. The police do not look for people except in cases of vulnerability or crime. According to Home Office estimates, about 210 000 people are reported missing in the UK each year. The vast majority return safe and sound within 72 hours - but thousands do not; the distress experienced during this time is when families need help most. State agencies such as the police are sometimes unable to help, leaving the National Missing Persons Helpline (NMPH) to fill the gap.

NMPH was established as a charity in 1992 to advise and support missing people and those who are left behind. It gives priority to the vulnerable - the very young, the old, the sick and distressed. NMPH has the most detailed 'missing' database in the U.K, registering both vulnerable and non-vulnerable missing people. The charity also offers its services to organisations outside the family circle; the police, social workers, hospitals, care homes, foster homes and international organisations. NMPH is like most charities dependent entirely on voluntary donations.

NMPH receives thousands of missing person’s reports every year, but on a positive note the charity helps to resolve 70% of cases it works on. Its helplines handle more than 150 000 calls per year.

Other specialised agencies, official and voluntary, deal with various aspects of the missing person’s phenomenon, but none has an overview of the problem as a whole. There is no central or single source of general or statistical information on a growing social problem which causes much distress to the absent and those they leave behind alike.More is known about those under 18 who go missing than any other group. According to the Children's Society each year in the U.K. 100, 000 young people run away or are forced to leave home to escape problems. Of this figure 77,000 children under 16 are running away for the first time. The research suggests that around a quarter of runaways run before the age of 11. One in fourteen children who run away, first run before the age of 8.

According to research carried out for NMPH, girls are over twice as likely to be reported missing as boys between the ages of 13 and 17. The Children's Society report of 1999 states that 45% of children in care run away overnight compared to 9.5% of those living with their own families. Almost one third of children who spend time in care run away three times or more

.One disturbing indication of what happens to these young missing people is that children who have been away for a week or more have a 44% chance of being hurt while on the run and 67% of those who stayed with someone they had just met had been hurt.

Missing young people face many dangers: around 40% of young runways sleep rough while they are missing and almost one third stay with a stranger. Some young runaways experience physical or sexual assault while missing.Some young people disappear as a result of abduction. Most incidents of abduction involve the child being taken by one of their parents due to a custody dispute. According to Reunite (The National Council for Abducted Children) the cases of parental abduction reported to them have increased by 79% since 1995. Abduction by a stranger or non-family member is rare. Whilst the police record several hundred offences of abduction and child abduction every year covering a range of scenarios (including parental abduction) there are very few offences which involve the abduction and murder of a child by a stranger.

Very little general information exists on missing adults. NMPH commissioned research in this area. The findings of the research, undertaken by the University of York, culminated in the "Lost from View" report 2002.Males in their late 20s are more likely to disappear than any other group of adults.

Among those aged 60 years or over, the most common reason for going missing is dementia, or mental health problems.28% of the samples of adults go missing sleep rough, as do two fifths of young runaways.Adults are more likely to go missing if they are going through a crisis or a difficult transition, or if they are vulnerable due to chronic difficulties

WHY PEOPLE GO MISSING
Reasons for going missing vary widely. A large body of empirical information gives some clear pointers. Reasons include:
Family conflict / relationship problems
DebtIllness or accident
Abuse
General anxiety or stress
Stress, depression or other mental illness
Amnesia, senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease
Alcohol, drug or solvent misuse
Abduction (most feared but least likely)
It should not be forgotten that people over 18 are at liberty to choose to go away and break off contact. NMPH therefore guarantees confidentiality to seekers and found alike; its commitment to confidentiality has won the respect of people around the country. It recognises the right to stay out of touch and can forward an 'alive and well' message to put relatives' minds at rest without revealing the sender's whereabouts. The Helpline believes every individual has the right to be in a safe environment and will not coerce anyone into returning against his or her will.
HOW THE CHARITY WORKS
The charity operates three nation-wide Freefone telephone Helplines manned 24 hours a day, and provides a variety of other services relating to missing persons. NMPH charges no fee because many families of missing people cannot afford one. But donations are encouraged because the Helpline now needs £4.1 million a year to provide services to the ever-increasing number of families who turn to them for help and support.
MISSING PERSONS HELPLINE 0500 700 700
The core Helpline of the charity, offering support, help and advice to families and friends of missing persons. Staff and volunteers also try to reunite families by searching for missing people via its network of contacts and sources throughout the UK, Europe and beyond.
MESSAGE HOME HELPLINE - 0800 700 740
Message Home is a 24 hour, national Freefone Helpline for those who have left home to send a message to their family or carer, to seek confidential advice, and if necessary to be helped to a place of safety, which can reduce a caller's time of vulnerability.
RUNAWAY HELPLINE - 0808 800 70 70
Another national Freefone confidential Helpline offering support and advice to young runaways. Callers can leave a message for us to pass on to a relative, social worker or carer and can request help and advice. Often young people who have run away feel that they cannot make direct contact with their family or carer, even to phone someone to say that they are alive and safe. The Runaway helpline can act as a non- judgmental intermediary.The NMPH offers a very valuable service and there are a number of ways that you can help too.
Donations are very important for this service to survive:
How to donate to NMPH
1. Secure Online donationshttp://www.missingpersons.org/
2. By PhoneCall the donations line on 0208 392 45923.
By Post
Send a donation to:
NMPH,
Roebuck House,
284 Upper Richmond Road West,
East Sheen,
London SW14 7JE

Adjournment Debate - 30th March 2006 Norris/McDowell

Missing Persons.

Mr. Norris: I am glad the Minister is attending the House personally. He has taken a concerned and humane interest in this matter — the establishment of a dedicated phone line for the families of missing persons in this State. Initially, the Minister was impressed by this heartbreaking situation for many people and made a grant available to establish a helpline in conjunction with Victim Support. The latter group, however, folded its tent and moved away and since then nothing much has happened. There was an offer of €25,000 to the group that is involved in this matter.

I wish to pay tribute in particular to the work of Mr. Tom Browne whose sister has been missing for some time. That offer appears to have fizzled out, however. In a reply to questions in the Dáil, the Minister indicated that a report had been commissioned at the end of 2003 from the department of social sciences at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He pointed out that only 100 phone calls were received and suggested that this tends to influence the view of his Department that, despite this great human tragedy, a stand-alone phone service is perhaps not the most efficient way of doing things. I disagree with that view, however, and would draw the Minister’s attention to the report’s administrative summary.

The distinguished authors state:The single most disappointing aspect of the helpline has been the small number of calls that it has received. Of these calls, only a very small proportion — 13 out of 100 — were generated by the gardaí giving out the brochure, which was initially intended as the main form of generating calls to the helpline. A significant failed objective of the project to date, therefore, has been the delay in distributing the helpline number to Garda stations nationally. At the present time, the majority of Garda sergeants have heard of the national missing persons’ helpline. However, of a sample of 20 stations contacted nationwide, only 65% had the national missing persons’ brochure on public display.The business of letting people know about the service is the first significant phase, as the report indicated. Therefore, the figure of 100 phone calls may be an unrealistic figure.

The report’s first principal recommendation is that the helpline funding should be continued, although this has not happened. I ask the Minister to reconsider the situation and perhaps open negotiations between himself or his officials and Mr. Brown, who is an extremely decent man and knows about the situation from the inside. Mr. Brown has spent a lot of his own money on this project. He gave out his own telephone number and was deluged with calls because he managed to have it announced on the radio.The group recommended that an advertising budget should be identified for the helpline because that information must be provided. It is considering purchasing newspaper and television slots. A budget of €25,000 would be completely unrealistic for such a purpose, so a sum would have to be negotiated between the parties involved. The range of services for missing persons should be extended to include counselling and a support network. Another recommendation is that the helpline should be operated as a free-call service as opposed to a lo-call one. In that way people, who quite often are in difficult circumstances, would not have to pay for such calls.

Another recommendation is that the Garda Síochána should be actively and vigorously encouraged to promote this helpline. Under the Minister’s regime, we have some good outreach services for the immigrant and gay communities. It is a remarkable initiative which is beginning to work. We should put some muscle behind this helpline and actively encourage the Garda Síochána to advertise it. A specific budget should be provided for the helpline instead of leaving it to people like Mr. Tom Brown who have suffered in this respect while working on a small budget. It is important for us to provide such assistance.

I wish to quote a couple of responses to the helpline which were published in the report. One response stated, “The helpline is a great service as it is difficult for us to talk to families when we have decided not to prioritise a case, even though every case is a priority for the family directly affected”. Another response stated, “Up until now, there has been nothing for these families, unlike Victim Support, for example”.

I ask the Minister to take action on this helpline in light of the serious situation concerning missing persons. A significant number of people are affected, some of them well known. Recently, there was a case of a young student who disappeared. He was a bank employee and had gone out for the night. He was caught on CCTV cameras but then nothing further was heard of him. The young man’s family agonised over his disappearance and put up posters all over central Dublin with his photograph and the family’s contact details. There were other well known cases such as that of Ms Jo-Jo Dollard.

Such families need support because they have had no closure. If they were able to talk to people who identified with and understood the situation, they would be able to obtain some degree of resolution. At the moment, however, they are dependent on the United Kingdom’s missing persons’ helpline. Admittedly, the matter affects only a small number of people but it is a significant number nonetheless. It is a real pity that, yet again, when faced with a critical human situation, we must depend on a service offered in the neighbouring island.Given the Minister’s goodwill in this regard, would he be prepared to revisit this situation and adopt some of the report’s recommendations for establishing a consistent service? At the moment there is nothing.


Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. M. McDowell):
I thank Senator Norris for raising this matter. I assure him that I share his concern, and that of many members of the public, about missing persons.The national missing persons helpline was established in October 2002, shortly after I came into office. Initially, funding of €65,000, to include set up costs, was provided by my Department to establish the helpline, to be operated and administered by Victim Support. Further funding of €45,000, net of set-up costs, was provided to the helpline in 2003. Senator Norris should bear in mind that this funding was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be necessarily implied, and audited accounts should be provided to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I regret to state that to date, no audited accounts for that total of €110,000 have been furnished to the Department. Perhaps that can be remedied, but it has not happened.

The conditions under which my Department provided funding did not include any requirements concerning the operational activities of the helpline. Any decisions relating to the operation of the helpline were made by Victim Support, which was an independent, non-governmental organisation with charitable status, which managed the operation of the helpline, in conjunction with the helpline itself.In March 2005, and after an independent review, I decided that continued funding of the organisation could not be justified due to serious concerns about governance, accountability for public funds and poor service levels after a lengthy period of instability within the organisation. I understand that Victim Support Limited closed down its headquarters during 2005 and a number of staff were made redundant, including the person employed to operate the missing persons helpline. My Department had no role in the decision of Victim Support Limited to make its staff redundant, other than to insist that full statutory requirements such as notice and holiday pay be met and that the interests of the staff be protected.Also in March 2005, I established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime in the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures. The commission is entirely independent in its decision making and it examines each application on its merits. Its members are Mr. Jim McHugh, a retired assistant commissioner of the Garda Síochána, Ms Nora Owen, a former Minister for Justice, Mr. Seán Lowry, a former head of the probation and welfare service, Mr. Michael Whelan of Gemini Consulting, and Ms Marian Finucane, the well-known broadcaster.

The commission received an application from the Missing In Ireland Support Service for €7I,600 to establish, staff and operate a helpline for missing persons. After careful consideration of the application, the commission decided to offer funding of €25,000. However, as the Senator implied, this offer was rejected by the Missing in Ireland Support Service on the basis that it would accept only the full amount sought. It should be borne in mind in this context that the commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that while some persons who are missing are almost certainly crime victims, most are not. Other than the request to the independent commission for funding, no request has been made by the helpline to my Department. It remains open to the Missing In Ireland Support Service to make an application directly to my Department for assistance if it so wishes. It will be carefully considered on its merits.The missing persons bureau in Garda headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All cases of a person reported missing in suspicious circumstances remain open and under ongoing review and investigation until the person is located or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a decision to that effect is given by the coroner.

At present, local Garda management takes direct responsibility for missing person cases and special investigation teams are appointed as necessary. All missing persons are recorded on the PULSE system. When a person is reported missing, the local Garda superintendent takes direct responsibility for the investigation and appoints an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, such as the national bureau of criminal investigation or the technical bureau.The systems put in place by the Garda Síochána to manage and deal with reports of missing persons are in line with best international police practice, and Garda management is satisfied, and has assured me, that the systems in place are adequate to deal with any reported case of a missing person. The Garda Síochána interacts fully and appropriately with all media outlets, including print, radio and TV, in highlighting cases involving missing persons. The services of other external agencies such as Europol and Interpol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda district has a specially trained search team familiar with the locality. The investigation of missing persons is a dedicated subject on the curriculum at the Garda College in Templemore, and is also covered in in-service training.The establishment of a national missing persons unit has been suggested from time to time and the matter is kept under ongoing review by the Garda authorities. Arguments for and against such a proposal can be made. The view of the Garda Síochána, gained through experience, is that while specialist units prove extremely useful in investigating certain types of crime, missing person cases, by their nature, require specific local knowledge both about the area where they occur and the circumstances and background of the person who is missing. Having a national unit that would descend on County Kerry to investigate a case could be counter-productive.

Research regarding missing person investigations has been conducted by the police authorities in the United States of America. Garda authorities maintain close links with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. My Department functions as the central authority for implementing the Hague and Luxembourg Conventions, which operate to secure the speedy return of an abducted child where that is at issue.The Garda authorities continuously monitor international developments on investigations of missing persons to ensure that best practice is followed. If their professional judgment is that some change in the existing legislation or protocols would be of assistance in improving investigations, this will be considered positively by my Department.

I share the view of Senator Norris that a helpline of this kind is best established on an independent basis and therefore by a non-official, voluntary organisation. I do not believe having a group of gardaí waiting to receive telephone calls is a good idea. I reiterate that if a proposal is made for funding separate from victim support, as victimhood and missing persons are not the same issue except for a small degree of overlap, I and my Department will carefully consider it to see what we can do.The Senator made the point that two-thirds of Garda stations had leaflets and that 100 telephone calls were generated. Even if the other third of Garda stations had leaflets, would that number of calls have risen to 130 and if so, would it justify spending the €100,000 sought? That would amount to €1,000 or €700 per telephone call. We must ask whether it is an effective use of public moneys. If the Department is approached with a good business case and tight financing we will examine it. I will remind the Senator of the failure to produce audited accounts. Simply signing a cheque is not a politically responsible action for me to take.Mr. Norris: I thank the Minister for his considered and positive approach. I agree with him that what is often involved is the social issue of dealing with the trauma of the relatives and not a police matter. I accept the point made on the non-production of audited accounts. It is partly the whirlpool created by the collapse of Victim Support. These are well-motivated amateurs who are genuinely affected. There is no suggestion that they made away with money.


Mr. M. McDowell: I did not suggest it.

Mr. Norris: The Minister did not do so. Mr. Browne made a considerable amount of his own money available. I thank the Minister for suggesting that a new proposal with a tight business plan and a clear strategy would be considered by his officials. I welcome that

Friday, July 21, 2006

Missing Persons Helpline Closes

Staff at Victim Support have been informed that the organisation will cease from 31 March next. This decision by the Minister for Justice will also mean that the missing persons helpline at 1850 442 552 will also cease.

Staff at Victim Support have been informed that the organisation will cease from 31 March next.

This decision by the Minister for Justice will also mean that the missing persons helpline at 1850 442 552 will also cease.

Fr Aquinas Duffy from the Missing Persons Association stated “Having being part of a campaign for the establishment of the missing person’s helpline, it is with great sadness that this news is received. It is not clear what future plans, if any, are being proposed and such decisions will rest with the new Victim Support Commission announced on the 8th March by Mr Michael McDowell T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.”

The Irish Government has once again shown clearly its lack of concern for its citizens leaving vital work to be carried out by the voluntary sector. These people are carrying out important work in our society unpaid and the Goverment continues to add to their troubles. The Missing Persons Association was formed in 2002 to bring together groups and people whose aim is to locate missing persons. It can help with both the search for missing people and also to highlight the issue of missing persons. The MPA now has its own rescue boat in Cork and is able to do land and river searches in conjunction with the Mallow inshore search and rescue and the Canine search and rescue (Cork).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ring concerned at closure of Missing Persons Helpline and McDowells reply.

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring has called on the Minister for Justice to set up a new missing persons helpline following the closure of the service offered by Victim Support.

“Until recently the State provided funding to Victim Support to operate a National Missing Persons Helpline. However, for a variety of reasons the service was closed down last March. The Missing in Ireland Support Service applied to the Department of Justice for a grant of €71,600, but unfortunately the State would only offer €25,000 and the offer was rejected.

With so many people missing in this country it is vital that a helpline should be made available to provide support, comfort and information to family and friends. That worst thing that could happen to any family is for a member to go missing.

“The least the State could do is to provide some form of back-up. It’s a sad reflection on society that with all the money in this country we seem to have lost our compassion, and that the State is not willing to provide something as simple as a helpline.”

Parliamentary Question from Michael Ring TD on setting up a permanent missing persons’ helpline.
Parliamentary Question for Written Answer on Wednesday 25th January 2006

* 1156. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if funding will be provided to have a permanent missing persons' helpline established; and if he will make a statement on the matt - Michael Ring

McDowells Reply:

Funding of €110,000 in respect of a National Missing Persons Helpline made available by my Department in 2002 and 2003 was channelled through the Victim Support organisation, and was in addition to the ongoing funding that that organisation received for the provision of services to victims of crime. This funding was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied, and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar year basis. To date no audited accounts have been received in my Department.

The Victim Support organisation received financial support from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform from 1985 to 31 March 2005. Almost €5.5m had been made available over the 5 years up to 2005.

In March 2005, I decided that continued funding of the Victim Support organisation could no longer be justified due to serious concerns in relation to governance, accountability for public funds and poor service levels, after a lengthy period of instability within the organisation.

The Missing Persons Helpline was operated from the headquarters of Victim Support alongside Victim Support's own helpline for victims of crime. I understand that Victim Support Ltd closed down its headquarters operation during 2005 and a number of staff were made redundant, including the person employed to operate the Missing Persons Helpline. My Department had no role in the decision of Victim Support Ltd to make a number of its staff redundant, other than to insist that statutory requirements (notice, holiday pay, etc) be met and the interests of the staff protected.

Also in March 2005, I established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures. The Commission is entirely independent in its decision making and examines each application on its merits. The Commission received an application from the Missing in Ireland Support Service for €71,600 to establish, staff and operate a helpline for missing persons. After careful consideration of the application the Commission decided to offer funding of €25,000; however, this offer was rejected by the Missing in Ireland Support Service. It should be borne in mind in this context that the Commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that, while some persons who are missing are crime victims, most are not.

It remains open to the Missing In Ireland Support Service to make an application to my Department for assistance if they so wish. I would like to inform the Deputies that the Missing Persons Bureau in Garda Headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All cases of a person reported missing in suspicious circumstances remain open and under ongoing review and investigation until the person is located, or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect by the coroner.

At present, local Garda management take direct responsibility for missing person cases, and special investigation teams are appointed as necessary. All missing persons are recorded on the PULSE system. When a person is reported missing, the local Garda Superintendent takes direct responsibility for the investigation and will appoint an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the National Bureau of Criminal investigation or the Technical Bureau. The systems put in place by An Garda Síochána to manage and deal with reports of missing persons are in line with best international police practice, and Garda management is satisfied, and have assured me that the systems in place are adequate to deal with any reported case of a missing person.