National day for missing people proposed

Sat, May 26, 2012, 01:00

A CORK school’s transition year initiative to help trace missing people is to be suggested to the European Council by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

Transition year pupils at Davis College proposed a national day for missing people, a second initiative after their first Forget Me Not scheme, aimed at tracing missing children, won them a Young Social Innovators Gold Award.

Yesterday the pupils were on hand as Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Mr Shatter launched a national initiative aimed at helping to track and rescue abducted children.

Child Rescue Ireland – or CRI Alert – was launched yesterday, May 25th, which is International Missing Children’s Day.

It will operate by asking partner agencies such as Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann and Luas as well as the HSE and local authorities to publicise details of missing children.

Anyone who knows of the child’s whereabouts, or those of a suspect, or has details of vehicles involved in an abduction will be asked to feed that information back to investigating gardaí.

A similar scheme called Child Rescue Alert is under way in Britain and Northern Ireland. Alerts in either jurisdiction on the island will automatically be passed to the other.

The alert, which would heavily publicise the details of missing children, would also use the internet and electronic roadside messaging to create massive awareness of children judged to be at serious risk.

The alerts could only be launched or cancelled by an assistant Garda Commissioner.

At the launch yesterday Mr Shatter paid tribute to the pupils of Davis College. He said that while the Forget Me Not campaign was mirrored in the CRI Alert, he would be taking their initiative on having a “missing persons day” on board.

Mr Shatter said he would suggest such a thing to his European colleagues in the home affairs and justice ministries, and that he was prepared to use Ireland’s upcoming presidency of the EU to promote the idea.

Mr Callinan also praised the Davis College pupils and said details of missing children would be publicised in health centres and local authority offices, and on railways and buses.

However former Fine Gael MEP Mary Banotti, who works extensively on the problem of missing or abducted children, has questioned the effectiveness of the new initiative.

She said child abduction was a major cross-border problem as children might be taken on flights without the written consent of both parents. Some 230 abductions took place from Ireland in this way last year, contrary to the provisions of the Hague Convention, she added.