It was on January 1st, 2015 that Clodagh Bell’s clothes and car were discovered, abandoned, on Newcastle beach.
Clodagh had left a note for her family, and the Greystones girl hasn’t been seen since.
For her father, Brendan Bell, the last three years have been incredibly difficult. Any attempt to move on, he tells The Irish Sun today, has been thwarted by the simple fact that, under current law in Ireland, families of people believed dead must wait seven years before they can seek a death certificate.
That puts everything surrounding that person on hold, from winding up a business to insurance policies, welfare entitlements and pension claims.
Hoping that Ireland will change the law in such cases, Brendan Bell has pleaded with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to speedily introduce a new Missing Persons Bill that will put in place a statutory framework to provide for the making of a ‘presumption of death order’.
“Going through all the grief and fighting the law added to the grief,” Mr Bell stated, who had lost his wife to cancer a few weeks before Clodagh’s disappearance. “The main reason I am pushing for the law change is that I didn’t want my children to go through it. You are revisiting the tragedy every time with the paperwork.”
Paperwork that has been on Brendan Bell’s table for three years now, he says. “And I’m still not finished with it. It is time for new legislation. The legislation has been debated, it seems to be stalled, log-jammed; it is obviously not a priority to the government, but it should be. We need legislation that is fit for purpose.”
It was in December 2016 that Brendan’s wife, Frances, died after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. Three weeks later, their 40-year-old daughter walked into the sea at Newcastle.
A year after that, the still-grief stricken realised he would have to deal with Clodagh’s estate, and that was when he hit “a brick wall”. Which led him to study the laws in the UK on missing-presumed-dead cases, discovering that the Scottish laws made the most sense. Something Senator Colm Burke was clearly echoing with his new Missing Persons Bill.
“I worked on that with Colm,” says Brendan. “I did various lobbying for the guts of a year, plodding at it, and I wrote to the Minister, and I explained the situation.” After Brendan unearthed a little-used piece of legislation, the county coroner finally order an inquest into Clodagh’s case back in November 2017, subsequently ordering that a death certificate be issued. Almost a year later, and Brendan is “still not out of the woods, unfortunately. The bureaucracy is huge.”
Also campaigning for a specialist DNA databased to be established in Ireland, Brendan Bell’s hard work may finally be paying off. Soon, he’ll be able to truly grieve…
You can read the original Irish Sun interview here. Pics of Brendan Bell by Garry O’Neill.
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