Twenty-five years after being declared missing, Denis Walsh was finally returned to his loving family who laid him to rest in his native Limerick today.
Denis (23) left his home in Caherdavin, on March 9th, 1996, and his family never saw him again.
Up to last February, when they were visited by gardaí with news of Denis’s whereabouts, Mr Walsh’s parents were unaware their son’s partial unidentified remains had been discovered off Galway Bay, four weeks after he went missing.
The remains were held at Galway University College Hospital Mortuary for 18 years, and eventually buried in a communal grave at Bohermore Cemetery in 2014.
Mr Walsh’s remains were exhumed last Friday and reinterred in the family’s plot at Castlemungret Cemetery on Saturday following his funeral Mass held at Christ the King Church, Caherdavin.
The family has called for a review of the Garda investigations into Denis’s disappearance and recovery of his remains on Inis Mór, on April 7th, 1996. Gardaí have said as far as they are concerned the case is now closed, and they have no plans to hold a case review.
A documentary inquest in which no witnesses will be called, but who will have their statements sworn into the record, is to take place on April 29th.
The Walsh family has been told they are not permitted to attend due to Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.
However, Denis Walsh’s father, Denis Snr, said he has, through his solicitor, sought permission from the west Galway coroner to attend the inquest, in order to ask questions about why his son’s remains were not identified sooner.
Gardaí have said the Forensic Science Laboratory conducted tests of bodily samples taken from Denis’s remains, in July 2008, March 2011, and June 2017. However, a match was not found until February this year through “advances” in DNA science.
Mr Walsh snr (81) said he is still awaiting a response on whether Galway gardaí alerted Garda stations, particularly Mayorstone Garda station in Limerick who handled his son’s missing person’s file, about the discovery of the remains in 1996, and if not, why not.
Family friend, Fr Tom Carroll, told mourners: “It has been a long vigil for the Walsh family as they waited for the news of Denis, and we can only begin to imagine your grief and your pain during that time – the fact that this [25-year] vigil was unnecessary, did not help.”
“However, we are not here to discuss what happened, we are here instead to remember Denis and to reflect on the wonder and beauty of his time with us,” Fr Carroll added.
The priest said Denis would be remembered for his love of animals, poetry, as well as his sporting prowess, which saw him line out for clubs across all codes, including Shannon RFC, Na Piarsaigh GAA, and Caherdavin Celtic.
“It’s quite unique to see people playing those different disciplines but he excelled in all of them,” said Fr Carroll.
Denis’s brother Michael Walsh broke down as he paid a loving tribute to his brother who was “kind, compassionate and liked a good laugh”.
Addressing mourners who listened on speakers outside the church, as well as via an online broadcast, Mr Walsh concluded: “The next time today you have a cup, or a mug, or a glass or a can in front of you – just raise it, and give a moment’s thought to the memories that Denis has left us, of his kind, generous, compassionate soul.”