Category: Archive

Pol, relative learn from DC trip

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Last year, a monument was erected in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle to commemorate the missing people in Ireland. The eight-feet-high lattice-style bronze sculpture, believed to be the first memorial of its kind, was designed by local artist Ann Mulrooney. It features the handprints of family members of the missing.
It was commissioned by a woman named Mary Phelan, backed by Ireland’s National Millennium Committee and funded by donations. Phelan is Dullard’s older sister.
Last week, Phelan and politician John McGuinness were in New York on a fact-finding mission. McGuinness has represented Carlow/Kilkenny in the Dail since 1997 and served as mayor of Kilkenny City before that.
Like everyone else, McGuinness was bewildered by the disappearance of the young woman and took an interest in the case. “I took on a case which involved a constituent of mine,” he said last week over the phone. “Since then, Mary Phelan and I have been campaigning for a special missing persons unit.”
McGuinness said that while gardai revisit the cases of missing people from time to time, the facilities in Ireland for these types of investigations do not compare to those in the United Kingdom and the United States.
McGuinness and Phelan, both accompanied by their spouses, chose to make their trip to the United States during St. Patrick’s Day week, believing that more doors would open due to their nationality.
The group arrived on the March 12 and flew to Washington for meetings organized with the help of Congressman Richard Neil.
They met Hillary Clinton, who has sponsored various protocols like Amber Alert and Operation Adam, which are designed to locate missing people. Her aides offered McGuinness help in understanding the complexities of the legislation.
Back in New York, McGuinness and Phelan visited the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Gerald Lynch. The college already has a working relationship with the Irish police, having organized exchanges before. Lynch said that if he received an invitation from Pat Lynch, the garda commissioner, he would set up a similar exchange in this field.
His suggestion is that the NYPD or FBI would go to Ireland while the Irish police come over to John Jay College and learn about the various techniques used in this country. McGuinness is hopeful that the offer will be accepted and that Dullard’s case be used as a test case for the learning process.
A garda spokesperson in Dublin said that the force “is constantly involved in identifying and assessing developments in policing internationally with a view to ensuring that members are properly equipped to deliver a quality policing service to the public.”
U.S. police have been involved in Irish missing persons inquiries before due to the disappearance of New York native Annie McCarrick, who has not been seen since March 1993.
In Washington, McGuinness and Phelan visited the Institute Of Missing and Exploited Children, where technology exists to build the profile of a child and project what he might look like years later.
The institute has professed itself to be interested in training Irish police and sharing technology with them. McGuinness hopes to emphasize the low cost of any training in the U.S. “The technology does not have a high price and the institute will give free courses,” he said. “All that is needed is the cost of travel and the software.”
McGuinness talked about what he called the huge difference in approaches of Irish and U.S. police. “In the Elizabeth Smart Case, the police never gave up,” he said. “They never stopped searching.
“As for JoJo, it’s as if the search never happened,” he said, referring to Dullard.
“The Garda Siochana do all in their power to locate all missing persons,” the spokesperson said.
McGuinness and Phelan returned to Ireland, satisfied with their trip. “We struck a line of Irish luck,” McGuinness said, adding that the meetings had been difficult for Phelan. “It brings back memories of JoJo’s disappearance, but she climbs above it all,” he added.
They hope that their efforts will benefit the families of other missing persons. McGuinness hopes to set up meetings with Garda Commissioner Byrne to discuss his findings.
McGuinness and his wife funded the trip themselves while Phelan and her husband were funded by private donations.
Each year in Ireland, up to 2,000 people are reported missing to the Gardai, and though most subsequently return to their homes, some are never seen again.

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