Written answers

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Department of Justice and Equality

Missing Persons

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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182. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the request by the coroner for Galway for the establishment of a centralised database for unidentified human remains (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28064/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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I wish to acknowledge the pain and trauma experienced by families of missing persons in the State.

As the Deputy may be aware, preliminary work was carried out by An Garda Síochána in 2019, to record unidentified remains that may be located with individual coroners across the country.

My officials have been examining ways to update and take forward that work, while fully respecting the independent role of the coroners as set out in the Coroners Act 1962. As a result of this work, I have recently approved the following measures.

My officials will write to each coroner to ask them what cases of unidentified remains they have dealt with since 2019.

Additionally, a new question on unidentified remains will be added to the annual statistical return from coroners, as provided for under Section 55 of the Coroners Act 1962.

The results of the number of cases identified in each coronial district will be shared with An Garda Síochána and in particular their Missing Persons Unit. This will provide an overview of the current situation since 2019 across the country along with an ongoing annual update on any new cases each year to permit An Garda Síochána to follow up with the individual coroners.

Forensic Science Ireland assists in the identification of human remains through the National DNA Database. Forensic Science Ireland and An Garda Síochána have worked in partnership over the past number of years to deliver a DNA testing facility for families of missing persons at the national Missing Persons Day ceremony. This partnership has served to enhance the ceremony from that of a largely commemorative event to one which has contributed to raising awareness of the significant contribution made by DNA testing to the conclusion of a considerable number of missing persons cases over recent years.

I hope that the promotion of the proposed work on recording unidentified remains, and in particular the annual return from coroners, will encourage more family members of missing persons to participate in DNA testing and database matching. To encourage this greater engagement, my officials will develop a targeted communications and outreach campaign, in partnership with An Garda Síochána and Forensic Science Ireland, to build on the success of National Missing Persons Day and encourage families to participate in this process.

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