Dáil debates

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Topical Issue Debate

Location of Victims' Remains

1:50 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Tánaiste for attending. I hope he will join me in expressing alarm and exasperation at the revelations contained in recent correspondence from the State Pathologist in the North of Ireland to the lawyers representing the family of Aidan McAnespie, who was shot dead by a British soldier on 21 February 1988 as he was making his way to his local GAA club grounds at Aughnacloy on the Tyrone-Monaghan border. The letter from Dr. J.R. Lyness advises that while the State Pathologist's office has retained seven paraffin tissue blocks containing wax-embedded tissue from some of the major organs of Aidan's body, the section of the ribcage that contained the exit bullet wound had been disposed of. Dr. Lyness states that this disposal was carried out in the years following the post mortem examination but that the State Pathologist's office does not hold any records on the disposal of retained tissue from that time. The ribcage section was removed from Aidan's chest cage, adjacent to the breastbone. This ribcage section measured 5 in. by 3 in. and was removed, I understand, at the time of the autopsy carried out by the then deputy State Pathologist in the North, Dr. Carson. When Professor Harbison carried out the second autopsy on Aidan's exhumed remains in this jurisdiction, he discovered that this critical section of Aidan's ribcage had been removed.

There have been many calls and alleged calls, historically and more recently, to have Aidan's full remains restored to his family, but to no avail. Professor Harbison was unable to make a definitive judgment on the trajectory of the bullet that took Aidan's life. Will the Tánaiste undertake to raise this matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, in correspondence and directly when next they meet? Will he request that she establish when Aidan McAnespie's removed ribcage section was disposed of? That no records were allegedly kept is bizarre in itself and is not credible. Will the Tánaiste request that the Secretary of State establish who carried out the disposal and under whose direction it was done? Will he request that she establish in what way the disposal was carried out? Will he request that she establish if the disposed of remains can be retrieved? Will he ask that she secure copies of all relevant documentation, including photographic records of said ribcage section and any other relevant material that the State Pathologist's office in Belfast holds?


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