AN 86-year-old man described as part of the "Lost Irish" has been declared dead by a judge after the last surviving members of his family gave up on a 30-year search.
Peter Edward Gallagher, known as Eamonn, emigrated to London in the 1950s after a family row and was last seen by his brother Charles in Whitechapel in 1979.
At a circuit court sitting yesterday, Desmond Murphy SC, for 83-year-old Charles, made an application to have Peter declared dead. His brother would have been 87 this Christmas Eve.
Charles's 90-year-old sister May, from Roosky, Convoy, Co Donegal, signed a declaration supporting the court action.
The elderly brother and sister also had 18 hectares of land in Roosky signed over to Charles.
"Peter and I came from a very large family of nine of whom only two still survive including an older sister May who is in her 90th year," said Charles.
"My brother left Ireland in the 1950s as a result of a family row and went to work on the buildings in London. He was last sighted in the Whitechapel area of east London in 1979."
Family priest Fr Patrick Arkinson had worked tirelessly on their behalf to trace Eamonn. The Salvation Army, the NHS and Britain's Department of Social Security had all carried out extensive searches for him.
Fr Arkinson said there had been just one previous sighting between 1952 and 1979, when Eamonn was spotted in south London by another man from Co Donegal who recognised him.
"Every conceivable avenue has been exhausted," said Mr Murphy for the family. "It appears he simply disappeared off the radar. The last two surviving members of the family are anxious to settle their own affairs."
He added: "It's another case of the 'Lost Irish', those who went away and nothing was ever heard of them again."
Granting both applications -- declaring the death of Eamon Gallagher and transferring the land to Charles -- Judge John O'Hagan said: "It's a very sad tale where people leave this country and disappear without trace."