State must intervene to find answers for unidentified bodies

Duncan Smith TD
06 March 2021

In Ireland, there are 823 missing persons files open. However, there is no record of how many remains have been interred in cemeteries, or remain in morgues, as the current rules regulating coroners does not compel them to report unidentified remains to a central system.

To redress this, Labour TD Duncan Smith has called on the Minister for Justice to appoint an agency to carry out a national audit of coroners and cemeteries to establish the number of unidentified bodies in the State.

Deputy Smith said:

“There is no one individual or authority with responsibility for collating all the unidentified remains that have been found in this country. We literally do not know how many unidentified remains have been interred in cemeteries or remain in morgues as rules regulating coroners does not compel them to report unidentified remains to a central repository. This is set against a total of 823 current missing persons files currently open, the oldest dating back to 1951.

“Coroners are not compelled to report how many unidentified bodies are in the country which has led to the perverse situation where families of missing persons must go to individual coroners’ and graveyards to seek information relating to their loved one. One family described this process as like going to 40 lost and found desks. At a time of horrendous heartbreak, it’s simply unacceptable that families of missing persons would be treated this way by the State.

“I am calling on the Minister for Justice to right this wrong for families. If coroners cannot find out the ‘how’, they certainly don’t have to find out the who. The Corners must be compelled to keep records of unidentified bodies, identifying the cause of their death and opening a system that would reunite the remains of these people with their family and loved ones.

“The media has gone above the call of duty for many of these families, searching for answers to these harrowing stories of loss. Instead of having families turn to journalists and the media to solve the mystery of missing persons, the State must play an active role in trying to solve these cases and bring truth to families after the headlines have moved on.”

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