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New state agency needed to deal with missing persons – Burke

24th May 2023 - Colm Burke TD

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke has called for the establishment of a new state agency to deal with missing persons.


Deputy Burke said the agency would provide identification services and advice to coroners and be the point of contact for the unidentified remains cases database and depository.


The call comes after the Department of Justice recently published, for the first time, information on unidentified human remains provided by Coroners around the country.


Deputy Burke said: “While I welcome the Department of Justice launch of the database which contains information relating to 44 unidentified human remains, including those of two infants, more work needs to be done in this area.


“I have highlighted the necessity of establishing a database for unidentified human remains on many occasions.


“I also submitted an expert report, prepared by Dr Rene Gapert, to the Department of Justice two years ago containing fully costed proposals for the setting up of a new structure to deal with missing persons.


“This agency would provide identification services and advice to coroners and be the point of contact for unidentified remains cases database and depository.


“It would also provide for an annual case review of open cases, annual statistics on identified remains and missing presumed dead cases. Such a body would complement the work of the State pathologist.


“The proposals also included the creation of a dedicated, centralised unidentified human remains part and sample depository for long term storage.


“Most importantly, this agency would provide assurance to the families of missing persons in the knowledge that there was an experienced and specialised unit working on their cases.


“I would urge the Department of Justice to reconsider the proposals and to give due consideration to the contents of same.”


Deputy Burke’s Missing Persons Bill became law under the Presumption of Death Act in 2019.


The Act enables a family, where all the circumstances clearly show that the person has died but no body has been found, to apply for a presumption of death order, and to deal with the affairs of the person who has gone missing.


The Act also disposed of the necessity of having to wait seven years to obtain a death certificate in respect of a missing person.


Deputy Burke concluded: “I would like to thank the dedicated coroners around the country for their invaluable contribution towards creating the database announced last week.


“This information obtained from coroners will go some way in assisting families of missing persons and will also support Garda investigations in relation to unsolved missing persons cases.”




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