Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator, Colm Burke, has outlined how his new legislation will aid the families of missing persons in overcoming the legal difficulties they currently face.
The records of the Missing Persons Bureau of An Garda Síochána show that almost 26 people are reported missing every day; amounting to over 9,000 missing person reports annually. While in the vast majority of cases the person who has been thought to be missing turns up safe, unfortunately some do not.
Senator Burke said: “When someone goes missing it has a life changing impact on their family and friends.
“The Missing Persons Bill 2016, which I published in July of that year, is designed to assist the families of missing persons in dealing with the management of the missing person’s estate.
“I believe we need to be as understanding and compassionate to people who have suffered this trauma.
“I am delighted that my Missing Persons Bill has now passed the Seanad and will hopefully become law later this year.
“As the law presently stands, in cases where a person remains missing, and it is clear from all evidence available that they have died, there is no legal procedure available to allow for their estate to be managed. Their families and friends are left in limbo, unable to take any action in respect of the person’s affairs.
“A death certificate cannot be issued, life insurance policies will not be processed and no decisions can be made in respect of the assets of the person’s estate.
“Today the Bill has passed all stages in the Seanad and is now at Final Stage, and I would like to see it complete its passage through the Oireachtas by the end of the year so families can get the assistance they need.
“The primary purpose of the Bill is to deal with the civil law status of missing persons. It puts in place a statutory framework which would provide for the making of a presumption of death order in respect of missing persons.
“This is where the circumstances of the disappearance indicate that death is virtually certain. The second category is where both the circumstances and the length of the disappearance indicate that it is highly probable that the missing person has died and will not return.
“The Law Reform Commission published a report entitled ‘Civil Law Aspects of Missing Persons’ in 2013, which clearly identifies the legal challenges encountered by the families of missing persons. My Bill seeks to provide a clear pathway for families to overcome those challenges at what is already a very difficult time.
I want to thank my fellow Senators Marie-Louise O’Donnell and Lynn Ruane for their assistance in getting the Bill through the Seanad,” the Cork Senator said.