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February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Prompted by the disappearance of his own cousin earlier this year, a Tallaght priest has launched a website to help track down missing people.

Father Aquinas Duffy, a curate in Springfield, says he has had thousands of hits on his site, which so far lists details of nine people who have gone missing without explanation.

Duffy says there are 18,000 Irish people officially listed as missing.

“Since I have got involved in this I have realized it must be Ireland’s darkest secret in many ways — that there are so many who have disappeared and whose cases remain unresolved,” he said.

Duffy knows at firsthand the helplessness, frustration and despair of relatives. When his cousin ‘ngus Shanahan, 20, who worked for Dell in Limerick, vanished on Feb. 11, there were extensive searches by gardai, relatives and friends.

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Duffy believes he may have gone to London.

“I wondered what I could do,” Duffy said. “I had had experience with websites, so I started from there. Then I thought that if I open it up for one, why not for others?”

The worldwide reach of the Internet has meant Duffy is reaching Irish communities in Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

“Now they are all on the alert,” Duffy said. “A missing-persons site in Holland has also taken on all our cases.”

Duffy said that many people might have just walked away from problems or difficulties to set up a new life abroad and then cannot face telling their friends or relatives what they have done. His site allows them alert loved ones in confidence just to assure them they are alive.

“All of the families respect a person’s right to privacy and their right to make a new life for themselves if they so choose,” Duffy said. “But they need to know people are not being held against their will, that it is not suicide or that they haven’t been murdered.”

The website can be accessed at http://www.missing.ws. The suffix “.ws” stands for “world site” and is a new domain name issued in the U.S. earlier this year.

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