Social media plays vital role in keeping memories of missing persons alive

Social media awareness campaigns help to keep the memories of missing children alive, according to the ISPCC.

The message from ISPCC director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, to mark International Missing Children’s Day, was to never give up hope.

“There have been cases, however rare, where people have been found after extremely long periods of time so it’s important to keep the memory alive. Poster campaigns are important because they may trigger a memory in someone. You can never really give up hope.”

She said Twitter and Facebook were becoming increasingly important in spreading information about missing persons.

To mark the day, celebrities such as Steven Fry, Simon Cowell, JK Rowling, and Kate McCann, the mother of missing Madeleine, backed a high-profile Twitter campaign.

“The Big Tweet” saw international charity Missing People tweeting a missing person’s poster every 30 minutes for 24 hours in the hope of reuniting missing children with their families.

The gardaí highlighted the cases of three long-term missing Irish children— Mary Boyle, Ciara Breen, and Rory Ahern.

Mary Boyle disappeared at the age of six from her home in Co Donegal in 1977. More than 38 years later, her case is Ireland’s longest-running missing person’s investigation.

Last year, a 64-year-old serving a two-year sentence for the sexual abuse of two brothers in Donegal in the 1970s, was arrested and questioned in connection with her disappearance. However, his questioning threw up no new leads, according to gardaí and he was released without charge.

Mary Boyle’s image, as well as those of Ciara Breen, who went missing in 1997 and Rory Aherne, who went missing in 1984, appeared on the posters.


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Gardaí keep all missing children cases under active investigation until they are located. In 2014, they investigated 7,064 missing children cases, of which just three remain missing.

Chief Supt Fergus Healy of Garda Missing Persons Bureau commended the work of the Missing Children’s Hotline in supporting children and parents in Ireland. “We urge people to use these services.”

Last year, the Missing Children’s hotline answered calls from 220 people, most of them minors who had run away from home. “The hotline is there to provide support to children, young people and their families,” Ms O’Sullivan said. “But the first step if you have concerns for the safety or welfare of your missing family member or friend is to file a report with the gardaí.”

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