A nationwide campaign is being launched today to set up a national database of missing persons and to establish the identity of body parts retrieved off west and south east coasts.
Known as the “forgotten dead”, they include six different sets of human remains retrieved along the Waterford and Wexford coasts since 1999 and two bodies in the city morgue in Galway.
A committee which is due to be formed this evening in Waterford will lobby TDs, make a presentation in the Dáil and is seeking a meeting with Justice Minister Alan Shatter. It will also focus on hundreds of Irish people who have gone missing over the past decade and seek to give a dignified burial to those who have perished and were never identified.
“The minute a body is found on land, the gardaí will investigate and a full technical examination is made, including DNA tests. However, human remains that are found in the water do not undergo these tests and that means that many of these people are never identified,” said fisherman and Sinn Féin councillor John Hearne, one of the founders of the campaign group.
“Even at this stage, all it would cost to send these bones for DNA testing is €10,000 — about the price of a small car. This would be of huge benefit to the families of those missing and if it is found that the body is that of a missing loved one, at least the family will know and be able to give that person a decent burial.”
Cllr Hearne said that a national database of missing people was also essential.
“This could include identification clues like trinkets, tattoos and clothes that the missing person was wearing.”
The committee will be looking for a private meeting with Mr hatter to discuss the database and the importance of DNA testing. It will also be contacting coroners in Ireland to canvass their support.
Cllr Hearne pointed to the case of the partial remains of a woman washed up in Wexford in 1996 whose skull was missing. They were buried later in Crosstown Cemetery but the woman was never identified.
“Secondly, two sets of human remains are in the custody of the coroner in Galway and have been there since 1996 and 2001 respectively. The remains were found off the Aran Islands and during this time a number of fishermen including 13 Spanish fishermen were lost off the west coast. This clearly shows the need for DNA testing.”
* A meeting to form a steering committee will be held at the offices of the Irish Fishermen’s Organisation in Waterford at 5pm today.
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