Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the circumstances surrounding the death and burial of a person (details supplied) who was residing at a direct provision centre in Galway city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24196/19]
368. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an inquest is to take place in respect of the death and burial of a person (details supplied) who was residing at a direct provision centre at Galway city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24197/19]
369. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the protocols in place for the custody and burial arrangements of persons who die while in direct provision and who have no next of kin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24198/19]
370. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the person or persons responsible for informing friends and-or colleagues of persons who die while in direct provision and who have no next of kin of attendant burial arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24199/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 to 370, inclusive, together.
My Department was made aware of the circumstances surrounding the death and burial of the person concerned.
I want to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to that person's friends and colleagues on their loss.
It is a matter of profound regret to me, and to the Department, that her friends heard of her burial after the event. This must have been deeply distressing to all involved and I offer my unreserved apology for the breakdown in communication, which led to this unintended event.
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) supported the organisation of a memorial for the person concerned, which was held shortly after her passing and was attended by her friends, centre management and members of staff from RIA. I have written to her friends with the offer of assistance to organise an appropriate commemoration following her burial.
By way of background, where a person dies while she or he is being provided with accommodation by RIA, RIA works closely with the centre manager to assist the family in accessing the supports provided by the State, and to ensure that any residents affected by the death are assisted in accessing services that can support them. All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s office. As is the case with all Gardaí/coroner matters, RIA is not privy to information held by the Gardaí or by a coroner.
The decision on whether to hold an inquest into the death of any person reported to the coroner, is a matter for the coroner who is independent in the conduct of their functions under the Coroners Act 1962. I am informed by the relevant coroner in this case that an inquest will not be required as the post-mortem examination disclosed that death was due to natural causes. The coroner, as required by law, provided details to the Registrar’s Office to register the death.
In an effort to better understand the communications between all parties concerned, a senior Departmental official spoke to the Coroner on 7th June 2019. The Coroner pointed out that the normal practice, where someone is interested in the outcome of a coroner’s consideration of whether an inquest will be held into the death of a person is necessary or when a person’s remains are to be released for burial, is that a letter would be on file. However as there was no formal request made in writing to record an interest in the release of the deceased's remains, he arranged for the appropriate and dignified burial of the deceased, through the relevant State agencies, as is the standard practice in these cases.
While thankfully, the occurrences of deaths where the deceased remains unidentified, unclaimed or no next of kin is identified, are very rare, the Department will take all possible steps to ensure that this outcome is avoided in future and that friends or colleagues who have expressed an interest are properly informed through appropriate communications with the coronial service and by liaising with other agencies involved in this case.