Today (Wednesday) Ireland will hold its first national Missing Persons Day, and Tullamore natives Olivia Burke and Josephine Pender are both to play an integral part in it.
Fourteen-year-old musician Olivia will perform at a ceremony to be held in Dublin, while Josephine Pender will remember her daughter Fiona who disappeared from her flat on Church Street on August 22, 1996.
Speaking to the Offaly Independent Josephine said she will attend the ceremony with two friends. She also voiced hopes the initiative that’s been prompted by second level students in a Cork school will continue as an annual event.
Sacred Heart School student Olivia will join guests and speakers including Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, journalist and author Barry Cummins, Dermot Browne of Missing in Ireland Support Services (MISS) and Helen Grealis of Searching for the Missing on the day.
The young musician said she was invited to take part by Dermot Browne of as a result of a song - Missing - she released to raise funds for the charity last year.
To mark the day a commemorative ceremony is to take place at Farmleigh House followed by the planting of a tree on its grounds. Events will complement the existing Missing Children’s Day.
Its objectives include commemorating those who have gone missing, recognising the lasting trauma for their families and friends, drawing attention to open or unsolved missing persons cases and creating an opportunity to provide information on available support services.
Beginning at 11.15am, the ceremony will include musicial performances from Olivia as well as soprano Celine Byrne, award winning youth choir the Penston Vocal Academy and the Band of An Garda Siochana.
Speaking of her awe at being involved, Olivia said she’s lucky not to have been affected by someone going missing, but she can imagine the pain it causes.
“I’m delighted I was even considered for it,” she said, adding that it is a “brilliant cause”. Though she admits she will have nerves, as she does before any performance, she said she’s also “really looking forward to it”.
Olivia has many performances in her history that may go some way towards settling those nerves. Not only did she release a single for MISS in 2012, but she has been writing and recording music for three years now.
Most recently she’s been spending time in studio, but she took time out to take part in - and win - the recent Oxfam’s Got Talent competition in Tullamore.
Speaking in advance of Missing Persons Day, Minister Shatter said each case is difference, but similar.
“The circumstances of each missing persons case is unique in its own way, but the heartbreak and enduring impact for family and friends is universal,” he said.
“I am honoured to join with the families affected by these tragic circumstances for this important inaugural event.”
Minister Shatter said he also believes there is scope for developing the national initiative beyond Ireland, and said he has recently proposed to his EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial colleagues that consideration be given to introducing a European Missing Persons Day.