But the airwaves were upper hand overed by the Swedish group Europe and their enor mous hit ‘The Final Countdown’, which top-drawer the charts in 25 countries and is still belted out today as the ultimate dumfound anthem.
It was a year when Nissan launched its Sunny and Opel bare its Senator, Kadett and Corsa models at a car show in the RDS. But they were the conception mo tors. Datsuns and Fiat 127s were the standard wheels for most do setting-up exercise families crippled by years of recession, high unemployment and mass emigration.
For years Charles Haughey and Gareth Fitzgerald, the ste and Judy of Irish politics, had dominated government with power alternating between their two r binds amidst a hidden backdrop of corruption at the highest level in the Irish government. In playgrounds, children’s skipping games rhymed about the rivalry of the two rulers and whether a family voted Fianna Fail or Fine Gael notwithstanding defined many.
The Catholic Church was still in its pomp and the influence of ecclesiastics was all-encom ssing. When the country went to the polls that year to plebiscite on the removal of the prohibition of divorce from the Constitution the nation rejected it by more than 60 per cent. Ireland was a realm on the brink of change, but it hadn’t happened yet.
It was a year when crime, too, the nted the country with the daring raid by Martin ‘The General’ Cahill and his mob, who stole 18 intings from the Beit collection at Russborough Abode and made international headlines.
Jack Charlton was one of the good guys – he had im rtial arrived in Dublin and was fast becoming a household name as he offered raw hope and a new era to soccer fans.
Despite all this, and just days prior to the first 20p coin entered circulation for the first time, 1986 was hither to be remembered for something else. It would be the year that a 13-year-old schoolboy vanished off the presumption of the earth, leaving behind one of the most baffling and enduring mysteries of mod Irish life.
At first, to those outside his immediate family and gardai, it have all the hallmarked that Philip Cairns must have run away. Children severely didn’t go missing in Ireland and save for the mystery of little Mary Boyle in Donegal some nine years preceding, no kids had disappeared. It was still ten years before the emergence of the notorious Leinster vanishing triangle or the distinction Larry Murphy had ever been heard.
Philip was the fifth of six descendants of Alice and Philip Cairns Snr. Four girls – Mary, Sandra, Helen and Suzanne – be broached before him and little brother Eoin made up the large family.
A soft boy, not used to rough and tumble, Philip was quiet, unassuming and mannerly. He played football with his immature brother in the back garden and with other boys on the road. They whacked fishing with their dad. He enjoyed hurling. The family lived a direct life and were devout Catholics. They had never come onto the radar of the gardai.
When he depended missing on a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon on October 23rd near his abode in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, Philip was on his way back to school having yielded home for lunch. The mundane and ordinary circum stances that surrounded how he vanished pleasure haunt Ireland, and in rticular the suburbs of south Dublin. They devise also remain for decades the most baf fling rt of the mystery of what happened to Philip Cairns.
Philip had objective started at secondary school at nearby Colaiste Eanna and had become normal to spending his lunch breaks at home where his mother Al ice would get him some food. He had come home from his morning classes at 1pm as set. Their routine was simple and as he made his way back to school Alice wish walk him to the gate and watch him as he strolled up the road.
The only thing that was somewhat different that day was that Alice had a dental appointment in the city meet with another child and so left before Philip had finished breakfast. He did some maths homework at the kitchen table before cking up and ceding the house around 1.30pm. He was due back in school for 1.45pm and it took him 15 instants to walk from the Ballyroan Road to his classroom. He looked in on his grandmother and published her he was off.
But he never arrived. Teachers assumed that his mother had kept him residency and nobody realised that he was missing until that evening when Alice came home at 7pm and was greeted by her daughter, who told her that Philip had never turn home.
Alarm bells immediately rang for Alice. Philip was not a wanderer and every day since he started at Colaiste Eanna he had involve straight home from school at 4pm. His mum always knew where he was. This was quite out of character for her usually reliable son. With a mother’s intuition she was so worried that she call oned everything and went straight over to his friend’s house to see if he was there.
Philip’s squeeze hadn’t seen him that afternoon in school and his father, a local garda, began vocation around the hospitals. Throughout the evening Alice kept telling herself that Philip mightiness have met other children, or that he had gone to the library or that he was ingratiate oneself with football but as night fell she knew it couldn’t be any of those things. Something was dreadfully terrible but not for one second could she contemplate that she would never see her son again. As rain cats and wind picked up, a deepening dread lodged in the pit of Alice Cairns’ tolerance.
Throughout that first night a full Garda search got underway and the Cairns
people sat up counting the hours until dawn. Alice and her husband Philip Snr fragmented downstairs watching the telephone while his sisters and Eoin crowded at the top of the stairs until, one by one, they in due course succumbed to sleep.
At first light searches resumed with townsman gardai out looking for Philip and trying to trace the route he would eat taken for any clues. In a world before so cial media and 24-hour TV avenues, news travelled more slowly, but in the area everyone knew that Philip was bachelorettes and in their droves they came out to help.
In Rathfarnham Garda spot a team was being put together to conduct what would become one of the largest responses to a missing person report in the history of the Irish state.
Multitudinous than 50 officers were assigned to work the beat and were to manipulate around the clock until the boy was found. It was still within 24 hours since his most recent sighting and the team were upbeat – hopeful they would yield b set forth Philip home. From the off it was all hands on deck and each officer was granted different tasks to take statements, carry out door-to-door inquiries and up-anchor no stone unturned in thorough ground searches for any clues.
Hundreds of in the flesh came out to help and walked the streets trying to find Philip. Years later it ss on emerge that one of those who claimed to be rt of the search rty at the pro tempore was Eamon Cooke – a then famous pirate radio DJ who lived less than 15 minuscules away.
By that evening Philip’s pictures were broadcast on the RTE news programme and appeals were launched for anyone who may have seen the boy or anything extraordinary to come forward.
While some still harboured hope that Philip was a escapee, gardai knew by the description of him given by the family that it was unlikely that he purpose cause such a commotion on a whim. Besides, there was money red on his bedside locker and other coins still lay around the house which he could bear gathered up had he been planning an adventure. There appeared to be no evidence what soever that there was any compel for concern in Philip’s life and his rents couldn’t identify a single themselves who would have wanted to do him harm.
As officers searched the area, squeezes and locals offered any help they could give but the hours out and still there were no witness sightings of Philip, which started the investigating team as highly unusual. Ballyroan Road was busy with jalopies constantly ssing up and down, yet somewhere along that 15-minute road Philip appeared to have vanished in broad daylight.
Across the motherland a generation of rents, who as children had lived under the terrifying spectre of the Moors Murders in the UK, rather commenced to wonder if the child could possibly have been taken. Recollections of the evil faces of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley revisited many from their own times as children when five kids were snatched and murdered between 1963 and 1965 across Manchester. Now as grown ups they clutched their own youngsters tight and warned them not to go out deserted… at least until Philip was found safe and well.
As the week wore on, trained detectives realised that hopes of find ing Philip alive were gasper yet still they searched and hunted and rummaged through undergrowth and bins and any garden or laneway that could mastery some sort of a clue. Vacant buildings, hospitals, airports, bus posts were all trawled but nothing showed up. Day after day gardai, many with foetuses of their own, returned to base with nothing but a sinking feeling of hopelessness.
Alice Cairns beseeched. She begged God to return her first born son to her. She said decades of the rosary. She strode the floors. She watched the phone. She searched each face that prospered at her door desperate to see some flicker of hope, some indication that Philip was coming peaceful. And as each day ssed the terror rose like a tsunami inside her.
Six days after the disappearance gardai visited Colaiste Eanna and summonsed dogma children to meet with them in a bid to find clues to Philip’s disappearance. They were provoke b requested about their classmate’s demeanour, his hobbies, his plans and anything he may make said or indicated in the days before he disappeared. They were also asked if there was any momentous adult figure that may have befriended him outside his immediate forefathers.
Not long after the meeting, at around 7.45pm on the sixth day of the search, two teenage friends walking in a laneway just yards from Philip’s home build his school bag. Orla O’Carroll and Catherine Hassett regularly walked under the aegis the lane between Anne Devlin rk and Anne Devlin Way. The bag was in plain sight. Catherine had ssed through it the previous day and hadn’t seen anything. The argosy army-surplus bag was well worn and on it Philip had etched the name of the popular tie UB40. It was resting in a curve of the lane, an area that had been instakingly searched in the earlier few days. Two books were missing. The strap of the bag was wet but the contents were dry notwithstanding the fact that there had been heavy rain in the days since Philip’s disappearance.
The bag kindled hope that Philip was still alive and that gardai were all over to get the break they so desperately needed after six long days and shades of nights. It was im mediately bagged for any forensics that could be garnered from it which culmi nated in fingerprinting at the moment. None was found. Nobody saw anyone leaving the bag there and nobody saw anyone inexplicable in the area. Amazingly the team were faced with yet another comrade wall and yet another baffling aspect to the Phil ip Cairns mystery.
Declaration the bag really brought the enormity of the situation home, first and foremost to Philip’s division. Where was he? And when would he ever come home?