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Emotional radio debut for dad of tragic Aisling



Original Source: HERALD IE: WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL 2010
By Kevin Doyle  Wednesday April 14 2010

THE Irish father of a toddler, whose disappearance sparked an international search last year, is now a radio presenter.

Aisling Symes (2) vanished in New Zealand last October, leading to a worldwide appeal amid fears that she had been abducted -- however her body was found seven days later in a drain.

Now her father Alan is back in the public eye after taking to the airwaves to present a show about Ireland.

Mr Symes was training to work in radio when Aisling disappeared but dropped the course for over a month during the painful period.

However, he managed to finish the studies, graduating in December with "excellence in news-reading".

"To get that certificate was absolutely ... I had tears in my eyes," he said.

On Sunday Mr Symes took on his first presenting gig with Auckland station, Planet FM, where he talked about Munster's win in the Heineken Cup and played songs by the Clancy Brothers.

He was stand-in presenter on 'Images of Ireland', which is a popular show on the community station.

Its recent guests included Health Minister Mary Harney during her 15-day trip to New Zealand for St Patrick's Day.

Mr Symes said that his emotional radio debut was nerve-wracking but he is determined to succeed in the business.

"I'll sweep floors, I'll make coffee if I have to," he said.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, he explained that it has taken some time for his sense of humour to come back after losing Aisling.

However, he said that he tried to inject a few laughs into the programme and not let his emotions carry through to the listeners.

During the show he talked about All Black Doug Howlett's contribution to Munster's 33-19 win over Northampton in the Heineken Cup quarter-final and mentioned developments at the Waterford Crystal Factory.

Mr Symes is also doing some production work with another radio station in New Zealand and hopes to be back on Planet FM in the coming weeks.

The Symes received massive public support from Ireland last October when Aisling disappeared from outside her late grandparents' house.

She had been playing with her sister Caitlin at the time and police feared that she may have been abducted.

The case drew international comparisons with that of British girl Madeleine McCann who vanished in Portugal in 2007.

However, after seven days of intensive searches, Aisling's body was discovered in a stormwater drain a short distance the house.

The lives of Alan, his wife Angela and their five-year-old daughter were turned upside by the tragedy.

Shortly afterwards, Alan said that he felt a "horrible emptiness" and Angela said: "There is a big part of me that has been ripped out."

An Irish tricolour was draped over Aisling's coffin at her funeral.

- Kevin Doyle


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