New website established to help families locate missing people

 

A new Internet website to help locate missing persons is to be opened early in the new year, offering relatives concerned for someone's safety a forum for publishing their pictures and other details.

The site will be run by the Irish Missing Persons Help-line, a voluntary body providing support for families searching for missing relatives. The organisation already uses a website to allow missing people to send messages back to their families without being traced, but said the new website would be a separate service.

"It's something a lot of people have been asking us about," said Ms Jenny Doyle, co-ordinator of the help-line. She stressed the service had to be sensitively run to protect the privacy of people who leave home and do not want publicity. "There is a very big distinction between people who go for their own reasons and those for whom there is concern," she said. "Only people suspected of being vulnerable will be publicised."

By vulnerable she meant the very young or old, or those who disappeared leaving essential medication behind, for example.

The organisation would have to work closely with the families of missing people and with the Garda, and each case would be assessed individually. The Missing Persons Help-line already worked closely with the Garda, Ms Doyle said, but a centralised computer record was needed. However, as recently reported in The Irish Times, the Garda's new £55 million computer system may not be switched on for another year.

Ms Doyle praised local gardai for their discretion in dealing with individual cases, but favoured a system of quickly reporting cases to Garda headquarters so that cases which became serious were reported from the outset. However, a Garda spokesman said the force had to respect the privacy of families of missing people who did not want publicity.

The idea for the site came from Mr Mike Fagan, manager of the Irish domain name registry at UCD, known as IEDR. He praised the Internet's suitability for details of missing people because, unlike television which provided a "snapshot", web sites provide a permanent copy of information.

The IEDR is responsible for registering Internet names in the .ie Irish Internet domain. The website has been supported by the Irish Internet community, including the IEDR, the Irish Inter net Association and the Higher Education Authority Network.

Mr Fagan said the network was providing most of technical equipment needed, and the IEDR was approaching the top 50 Irish web site owners to ask them to provide online links to the site. The web site (www.missing.ie) should be opened about January 4th, he said. The Irish Missing Persons Helpline is at www.callhome.ie, while the Garda website at www.garda.ie also contains missing-person information.