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729. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the backlog which exists in the Coroner’s Courts around the country due to Covid-19 and the way this is impacting on bereaved families who are awaiting death certificates and the consequences of such delays for probate and other matters; and the steps she will take to address the matter. [13408/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy will be aware, Coroners are independent in the conduct of their functions and neither I nor my Department have any role in the scheduling of inquests.
Most coroners hold inquests in local court houses, and as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, activity in these facilities has unfortunately been severely curtailed. The Coroners Society of Ireland agreed that all inquests in the State were not to be held in January given public health considerations under Level 5 restrictions.
My Department is aware that the delay in holding inquests is causing distress for families and officials from my Department are liaising with the Courts Service on this matter. The Courts Service works closely with coroners across the country to facilitate inquests and will do so once again when restrictions ease.
In response to the pandemic, I understand that some coroners are holding, what are referred to as ‘documentary inquests’ or remote inquests, which require very small numbers of attendees and take place with the agreement of families. Larger inquests, requiring multiple witnesses, are being rescheduled to a later date.
The revised Government plan in relation to Covid-19, published last week, refers to the need for each government department to develop sectoral plans to mitigate backlogs, and anticipate pent up demand or unmet needs arising from restrictions. This will build on the new ways of working that have already been brought into place, and will include consideration of the issues in relation to coroners, as appropriate. My Department continues to keep service delivery across the justice sector under review in the context of the pandemic.
My Department collates and publishes annual statistics on the activities of each coroner. The annual statistics on how many deaths were reported to coroners, how many Post-Mortem examinations were ordered by coroners, and how many inquests were held by coroners can be found under the "Publications" tab on www.coroners.ie. My Department is currently in the process of compiling the statistics in respect of 2020, and when complete, these will be published on the website. Question No. 730 answered with Question No. 724.