132. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the coroner authorised for a person (details supplied) to be buried in private with no ceremony, when there were requests and reminders on 4 April 2019, 17 April 2019 and 3 May 2019 by the RIA for the release of the body for a public burial; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24483/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): 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.
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.
In an effort to better understand the communications between all parties concerned, a senior Departmental official spoke to the Coroner on 7 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 her 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, groups 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.