A NEW smartphone app will enable the public to assist gardai trying to recover abducted children.
With over 50pc of the population owning a smartphone, it is hoped the app will help in the spread of information through social media and generate new leads for gardai.
A CRI alert sends a message out to the public and the media about a child abduction.
So far, only a small number of CRI alerts have been issued by gardai. The app was developed with the co-operation of the Vodafone Foundation and those who download it will be notified every time the gardai issue a new CRI alert or update existing alerts.
A second feature of the app allows parents to securely store an image and details of their children in the event of them going missing.
The launch in Farmleigh House took place as families of over 100 people who have gone missing in Ireland over the last 30 years attended the inauguration of the National Missing Persons Day.
In his address to inaugurate missing persons day, Mr Shatter broke down as he recalled the "inexplicable disappearance" of Philip Cairns in his own constituency in October 1986.
"When I hear of a missing person now, I always think of Philip and the distress for his family following that terrible day and the sense of being helpless as time passed and no information about him forthcoming," he said as his voice cracked with emotion.
He added: "I know this is a feeling shared by all of you."
Mr Shatter pledged to push his European colleagues to introduce a European missing persons day.
Describing it as a "day of emotion, remembrance and hope", Mr Shatter paid tribute to the families who never give up on their loved ones.
Among the gathering were Jo Jo Dullard's sister Mary Phelan, Josephine Pender, the sister of Fiona Pender, and a daughter of Jean McConville, as well as Helen Grealis, whose brother JP Grealis went missing in the Netherlands.
Diane Sinnott, a sister of 19-year-old Fiona Sinnott, who went missing in 1998 after a night out in a pub in Broadway in Co Wexford, welcomed the initiative.
"With no grave to visit, we had two plaques placed outside the pub where Fiona went missing, but both of them were stolen on us – so we didn't even have that.
"That is why this gathering is so important," she told the Irish Independent.
In Fiona's case, Diane Sinnott said someone definitely has information and knows what happened to her.
"She didn't just disappear, she was done away with," she said.
Alice Cairns, mother of Philip, was accompanied by her daughter Sandra and Mr Shatter invited her to assist him in the tree-planting ceremony in the grounds of Farmleigh.
She told the Irish Independent that though she had been "able to survive and keep going, Christmas is a tough time".
Philip would be 40 today, and Alice appealed to anybody with any information to come forward "for their own sake as well as ours".
She added: "It must be a terrible thing to have on their minds, I forgive anybody but at the same time I would like them to come forward and relieve our pain.
"And give hope to other people," Mrs Cairns added.