Wednesday 11 December 2019

Father of missing Philip Cairns dies

Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986
Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986
Nicola Anderson

By Nicola Anderson

THE father of missing Dublin schoolboy Philip Cairns has died without ever discovering what has happened to his son.

Philip Cairns snr, passed away peacefully following an illness.

Mr Cairns had campaigned relentlessly to find answers after his son disappeared while walking back from school in 1986 in Rathfarnham.


Mr Cairns was surrounded by his family at Tallaght Hospital when he died, just three months shy of the 28th anniversary of his son's disappearance.

He is survived by his wife, Alice and five of their six children, Mary, Sandra, Helen, Suzanne and Eoin. Philip (13) disappeared on the afternoon of 23 October 1986 while walking back to his school, Colaiste Eanna, where he had been a first year student for just over a month.

A large-scale investigation was carried out but no trace of the boy was ever found.

Mysteriously, his schoolbag was subsequently discovered lying in a laneway linking Anne Devlin Road and Anne Devlin Drive, which had previously been searched.

The bag contained some of Philip's books, but his geography book and two religion books (Christian Way 1 and the Good News New Testament) were missing.

Forensic tests on the bag did not reveal any information.

On the 20th anniversary of his disappearance in 2006, the family appealed for anyone with information about Philip's disappearance to get in contact with gardai in confidence.

Philip's brother Eoin, who was two years younger and was 11 when his only brother disappeared described how the intervening period had been extremely difficult for his parents and the whole family.


"Philip is always there in the sense that he is not there. At Christmas, birthdays, weddings and other family occasions we think of how Philip should be with us," he said.

He described how Philip had been his best friend and how they had played soccer in their back garden and how the young boy had loved to go fishing with his father.

Local Fianna Fail councillor John Lahart said he had grown up on the road where the Cairns family lived, saying: "Philip has never been forgotten by the people of Ballyroan."

"Philip Senior's death will be felt very much by the people here. That loss will be felt by everybody," he added.

He said that Alice Cairns was a very visible presence in the local community, adding that she was a "lovely, gentle spiritual person."

The funeral of Philip Senior takes place on Wednesday at the Holy Spirit Church, Ballyroan.

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