The Role of the Coroner

A Coroner in Ireland is an independent official with legal responsibility for the investigation of sudden and unexplained deaths. The role of the Coroner is to enquire into the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. This may require a post-mortem examination, sometimes followed by an inquest. The post-mortem is carried out by a pathologist, who acts as the Coroner’s agent for this purpose. The Coroner’s inquiry initially is concerned with establishing whether or not death was due to natural causes.

The Coroner essentially establishes the “who, when, where and how” of unexplained death. A Coroner is not permitted to consider civil or criminal liability; he or she must simply establish the facts. If a death is due to unnatural causes, then an inquest must be held by law.

A Coroner will not be involved in cases where a person died from a natural illness or disease for which the deceased was being treated by a doctor within one month prior to death. In this case, the doctor will issue the medical certificate of the cause of death. The death can then be registered and a death certificate can be obtained.

In cases of sudden, unnatural or violent death, there is a legal responsibility on the doctor, registrar of deaths, funeral undertaker, householder and every person in charge of any institution or premises in which the deceased person was residing at the time of his/her death to report such a death to the Coroner. The death may be reported to a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of Sergeant who will notify the coroner. However at common law, any person may notify the Coroner of the circumstances of a particular death.

In situations where a medical certificate of the cause of death is not available, the Coroner will arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body. If the post-mortem examination shows that death was due to natural causes, and there is no need for an inquest, a Coroner’s Certificate will be issued to the Registrar of Births and Deaths who will then register the death and issue the death certificate.

If death is due to unnatural causes, the Coroner is obliged to hold an inquest. The death will be registered by means of a Coroner’s Certificate when the inquest is concluded (or adjourned in some cases).

Prior to the inquest (or whilst awaiting the post-mortem report), the Coroner’s office will provide an Interim Certificate of the Fact of Death, which may be acceptable to banks, insurance companies and other institutions.

Post-mortem examinations

A post-mortem (or autopsy) is a procedure to establish the cause of death. It may take up to six weeks or longer before a post-mortem report from the pathologist is produced. The death cannot be registered until the post-mortem is received. An inquest will then only be held if the coroner decides the death is due to unnatural causes.

The Garda Síochana will assist the Coroner in arranging a formal identification of the body by a member of the family or a relative of the deceased. The Gardaí will send to the Coroner a report on the circumstances of the death. The fact that relatives may be met at the hospital by a uniformed Garda, or that a Garda may call to the home to take a statement, does not mean that the death is regarded as suspicious. Members of the Gardaí will in most cases act also as Coroner’s officers.

Rules

Certain deaths must be reported to the Coroner. These deaths include the following:

Deaths occurring at home or other place of residence:

  • Where the deceased was not attended by a doctor during the last illness;
  • Where the deceased was not seen and treated by a doctor within one month prior to the date of death;
  • Where the death was sudden and unexpected;
  • Where the death may have resulted from an accident, suicide or homicide;
  • Where the cause of death is unknown or uncertain.

Deaths occurring in hospitals:

  • Where the death may have resulted from an accident, suicide or homicide;
  • Where any question of negligence or misadventure arises in relation to the treatment of the deceased;
  • Where a patient dies before a diagnosis is made and the general practitioner is also unable to certify the cause;
  • When the death occurred whilst a patient was undergoing an operation or was under the effect of an anaesthetic;
  • Where the death occurred during or as a result of any invasive procedure;
  • Where the death resulted from any industrial disease;
  • Where a death was due to neglect or lack of care (including self neglect);
  • Where the death occurred in a mental hospital.

Deaths reported to the Coroner by an officer of An Garda Síochána Where a death may have resulted from an accident, suicide or homicide;

  • Where a death occurred in suspicious circumstances;
  • Where there is an unexpected or unexplained death;
  • Where a dead body is found;
  • Where there is no doctor who can certify the cause of death.

Deaths reported to the Coroner by the Governor of a Prison inIreland:

  • Immediately following the death of a prisoner.

Other categories of death reportable include:

  • Sudden infant deaths;
  • Certain stillbirths;
  • The death of a child in care;
  • Where a body is to be removed abroad.

Post-mortems

In certain situations when someone dies inIreland, it may be necessary to carry out a post-mortem examination (also called an autopsy) of the deceased’s body. A post-mortem examination is a medical examination of a dead body to determine the exact cause of death. In the case of a violent death, the post-mortem may be necessary as part of a criminal investigation. Post-mortems inIrelandare carried out by a specific type of physician called a ‘pathologist’.

It’s important to remember that during a post-mortem examination, the body is treated with utmost respect and no disfigurement of the body takes place. In fact, the body may be viewed afterwards, and usually should not delay funeral arrangements.

The family or next of kin will normally be asked for their permission before a post-mortem is carried out. However, where a Coroner has ordered a post-mortem examination, the permission of the next of kin is not necessary.

During a post-mortem examination, all body cavities (head, chest and abdomen) are examined and the organs dissected. Small blocks of tissue and blood samples may be retained by the pathologist for further examination. Occasionally, it may be necessary for the pathologist to retain a whole organ (or organs) for more detailed examination in order to establish the cause of death. Where an organ is retained, this is purely for the purpose of establishing or clearly determining the cause of death. Consent of the next-of-kin is not required, but they will be notified. In addition, the next-of-kin will be required to express a preference for ultimate disposal of any organs removed. Retention of an organ for any other purposes by a pathologist (i.e., teaching, research, etc.) requires specific consent from the next-of kin.

Following the post-mortem examination, the body will normally be released to the spouse or next-or-kin immediately after the examination has been completed

Although the need for a post-mortem will not usually delay the funeral, the results may not be available until three to eight weeks later. In certain circumstances, it may be several weeks before the post-mortem report is received from the pathologist. For example, in situations where a toxicology (drug) screen is required it may be several months before the post-mortem report is completed. Queries relating to post-mortem reports should be made to the Coroner’s office and not to the hospital concerned.

You can discuss the results with the deceased’s doctor once the results are available, and you can then proceed with registering the death in the usual way. You cannot register the death until the post-mortem results are received by the Coroner’s Office. Prior to inquest (or whilst awaiting the post-mortem report) the Coroner will provide on request an Interim Certificate of the Fact of Death. (This may be acceptable to banks, insurance companies and other institutions but you should check with the institutions for their requirements).

Organ Donation

Each year inIreland, organ donors save the live of countless people. If someone is an organ donor, but their death is (or will be) reportable to a Coroner, permission of the Coroner and next-of kin is required before organs can be donated. In situations where the Coroner grants permission for donation, the following post-mortem examination will be limited.

It is for the Coroner to decide this matter, following consultation with the Gardai and advice from medical professionals. In general, the Coroner will facilitate requests for organ donation.

Inquests

An inquest in Irelandis an official, public enquiry, presided over by the Coroner (and in some cases involving a jury) into the cause of a sudden, unexplained or violent death. An inquest may be held to establish the facts of the death, such as where and how death occurred. An inquest would not normally be held if a post-mortem examination of the body could explain the cause of death.

The inquest will not take place until at least six weeks after the death. Witnesses may be required to attend the inquest to give testimony on oath regarding the circumstances and cause of the death. When a jury is present at an inquest, it is the jury rather than the Coroner who delivers the verdict. Jury service at an inquest is obligatory and a majority verdict is used to reach a verdict. Nobody is found guilty or innocent at an inquest and no criminal or civil liability is determined. There are no “parties” and all depositions, post-mortem reports and verdict records are preserved by the Coroner and are made available to the public.

An inquest is usually held in a courthouse; however, hotels or local halls may also be used. The family of the deceased are entitled to attend the inquest, but they are not bound by law or legally obliged to be there. If the family attend the inquest, they do not require legal representation on their behalf (i.e., a solicitor or legal advisor). Sometimes however, if legal action is being taken as a result of the death, the family may engage a solicitor to attend the inquest and take notes.

When the proceedings have been completed, a verdict is returned in relation to the identity of the deceased, and how, when and where the death occurred. The range of verdicts open to the Coroner or jury (in jury cases, it is the jury that returns the verdict) include accidental death, misadventure, suicide, open verdict, natural causes and unlawful killing.

A general recommendation designed to prevent similar deaths occurring may be made by the coroner or jury. When the inquest is completed, the Coroner issues a certificate so that the death can be properly registered.

Rules

If a death is due to unnatural causes, then an inquest must be held by law.

Jury at an inquest

In certain circumstances, a jury must be present at an inquest. Every person over the age of twenty-one years residing within a coroner’s district is liable to serve on the jury at any inquest held within that district unless they are exempt. The inquest jury must consist of at least six people (and not more than 12 people). Circumstances where a jury is required at an inquest include where:

  • The death is due to murder, manslaughter or infanticide
  • The death took place in prison
  • The death was caused an accident, poisoning or a disease requiring notification to a Government Department or inspector
  • The death was caused by a road traffic accident
  • The death occurred in circumstances, which if they continued or recurred would endanger the health or safety of a member(s) of the public
  • The Coroner considers that a jury is necessary.

To attend as either a juror or witness at an inquest, you will receive a summons served by a member of the Garda Síochána. This summons can be served on you in a number of ways. For example, by delivering it to you directly, leaving the summons with your wife or husband, child, employee or agent at your last known residence or workplace as long as that person is not under 16 years of age, etc. Failure to attend at jury service at an inquest is an offence and you will face penalties.

If the jury at the inquest fail to agree on the cause of death, the Coroner can either accept the majority decision of the jury or if the decision is tied, discharge the jury and hold a new inquest.

Witnesses at an inquest

The Coroner decides which witnesses should give evidence at the inquest and the order in which they should give their evidence. Evidence must be presented so as to provide a logical sequence of the circumstances surrounding the death. The post-mortem result establishes the medical cause of death.

Witnesses who are required to attend an inquest can claim for loss of earnings and expenses. The rates for fees and expenses are set by statutory instrument.

Public attendance at an inquest

All inquests held inIrelandare conducted in public and anyone may attend. Reports of inquests may be carried in national and local newspapers but in practice only a minority of inquests are actually reported. Coroners inIrelandare very much aware of the tragic circumstances often involved in inquests and will try to treat each inquest sympathetically. If there is a suicide note, its existence will be acknowledged. At the discretion of the Coroner, its contents may be read out in public. Every attempt is made to ensure that the inquest proceedings are not unduly intrusive on families and friends concerned.

Official reports of inquests inIreland

As inquests inIrelandare public enquiries, it is possible to obtain a copy of the post-mortem report and any depositions taken at inquest, including a copy of the verdict. These official reports are only available after the inquest has concluded. There is a small fee for these documents. Inquest papers are not available prior to the inquest being held.

How to apply

If you have been summoned as a witness or jury member for an inquest, you will be notified to the date, time and venue of the inquest. If you have any questions about the inquest, contact your local Garda station.

Copies of official reports of inquests are available from the local Coroner’s office. To obtain a report, you will need to write to the Coroner’s Office requesting this information and including the name of the deceased, the date of death, the hospital involved (if any) and the date of the inquest (if you have this information).

Missing, presumed dead

As in other countries, many people go missing in Ireland every year. While the majority are safely reunited with their families, a small minority remain on the Garda National Missing Persons List. In 2008 there were 7,980 missing person reports. By the end of the year only 70 remained untraced. For those left behind, this can be a very difficult time. The following information explains the legal situation regarding the estate and possessions of a missing person.

If someone in Irelandis thought to be dead but there is no body (for example, because a person was lost at sea), all of their assets and property are normally frozen and cannot be used by anyone. Two exceptions to this are where the property is jointly owned or where someone has Power of Attorney to deal with their property or money in their absence.

Normally, you will not be entitled to a Death Certificate or to any pension, life insurance or bereavement-based social welfare payment in respect of the person who is missing/believed dead. However, there are two exceptions to this.

The first exception is in the case where there is strong evidence that the missing person is, in fact, dead. Normally, an inquest cannot be held unless there is a body. However, under Section 23 of the Coroners Act 1962, a Coroner may make a submission to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform requesting an inquest if he/she has to reason to believe that a death has occurred in or near his/her district in such circumstances that an inquest is appropriate even though the body may have been destroyed (for example, in a fire) or be unrecoverable (for example, after a drowning). If the Minister thinks it proper, he/she may direct an inquest to be held in relation to the death. A Garda report of the accident is usually submitted and if the verdict by the Coroner is that the missing person is dead, the person can legally be presumed dead and the death can be registered. Only then can the person’s property be distributed, his or her life insurance and pension paid out, and their dependants be entitled to bereavement-related social welfare payments.

While there is no Irish legislation, the general rule in all other cases (where an inquest cannot be held) is that an application can be made to the High Court once the person has been missing for seven years or more. It may not always be necessary to wait for seven years before applying if there is a very clear implication from the circumstances that the person is dead. The High Court will then examine the situation, and if it finds (on the balance of probabilities) that the person is more likely to be dead than alive, a declaration will be made that the missing person is legally to be presumed dead. Once the High Court declaration has been obtained, the person’s property may be distributed, life insurance and pension paid out, and the bereavement-related social welfare payments paid to entitled dependants.

Additional information

If a friend or family member goes missing, contact your local Garda station.

Missingpersons.ie

Missing Persons Helpline
3rd Floor
Harcourt Centre
Harcourt Street
Dublin 2
Ireland

Locall:  1890 442 552
Homepage: http://www.missingpersons.ie/
Email: info@missingpersons.ie

Exhumation of the remains of a deceased person

The prospect and experience of an exhumation of interred (buried) remains of a deceased person can often be a very difficult time for the family and friends of the deceased person. It is only in strict circumstances that exhumation occurs in Ireland. At all times during the process, due regard for respect to the deceased person and privacy for the family and friends of the deceased person is protected.

Some examples of situations where an exhumation of interred remains might be required or take place include:

  • When a court orders an exhumation as part of a criminal investigation
  • For public health reasons (e.g. if a graveyard or cemetery is being moved)
  • For family reasons (if the family of the deceased person requests that the remains be moved to another burial ground, another part of the country, abroad, etc.).

The following information relates to exhumations for the purpose of reburial elsewhere.

Rules

Your local authority (which has responsibility for the maintenance and regulation of burial grounds in your area) issues special licences that authorise exhumations but only where applications for the exhumation of interred remains comply with very strict guidelines (including permission granted by the family).

At all times, exhumations can only take place in the presence of an Environmental Health Officer from your local authority and the exhumation is supervised to ensure privacy and to protect public health.

Before an exhumation licence is granted, consideration is given to the length of time the body has been interred. As a matter of course, the exhumation of recently deceased people is not permitted. Following exhumation, the remains of the deceased person must be reburied or cremated within 48 hours of exhumation.

An exhumation licence will not be granted where:

  • The consent of the next of kin has not been given
  • The burial plot cannot be identified
  • The remains lie unidentified in a common plot (e.g. the burial plot of a religious order)
  • Due respect to the deceased cannot be guaranteed
  • The remains to be exhumed are located below a body that is not to be exhumed
  • Public health and decency cannot be protected
  • Graveyard ground conditions are not conducive to an exhumation
  • Conditions attached to the exhumation licence cannot be complied with.

Environmental health and exhumations

When a request for an exhumation is received by your local authority, the Environmental Health Officer visits and inspects the grave of the deceased person and obtains any further information required from the management of the cemetery and the undertakers involved. The Environmental Health Officer is present at the exhumation and supervises events to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. If the remains are to be re-interred in the same local authority area, the Environmental Health Officer also supervises the re-interment. If the remains are to be re-interred in another local authority area, the Environmental Health Officer will ensure that the receiving local authority receives all necessary details.

During the course of the exhumation, the Environmental Health Officer ensures that:

  • The correct grave is opened
  • The exhumation commences as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy
  • The plot/burial ground is screened as appropriate
  • All workers wear protective clothing, including gloves, overalls, face masks, etc.
  • Everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person
  • The name plate on the casket corresponds with the name on the licence
  • All remains and pieces of casket, webbing etc. are placed in the new casket (shell)
  • A supply of disinfectant is available and used.

Procedure for exhumation of interred remains

When an exhumation licence has been granted by your local authority, the exhumation of interred remains must take place within 12 months of the granting of the licence.

The time, date and place of exhumation must be notified to the Environmental Health Officer at least five working days prior to the exhumation (this is to ensure that inspection of the plot/grave can take place). Arrangements regarding the transport and storage of remains between the period of exhumation and the eventual re-interment should also be notified to the Environmental Health Officer.

Exhumation cannot take place unless the Environmental Health Officer is present. This is to ensure that all procedures are complied with and everyone present shows respect to the deceased person at all times.

Screens are placed around the existing grave/burial plot to protect the exhumation from public view and to guarantee privacy. Sometimes (if necessary), an area of the graveyard is cordoned off from public view to facilitate privacy.

Due care should always be taken with burial plots around the exhumation plot.

Disinfectants and disposable protective clothing (including respiratory facemasks) are made available to staff conducting the exhumation and any used protective clothing is disposed of safely following the procedure.

The exhumed remains (including the existing casket) are placed in a new casket (sometimes this is referred to as the “shell”). This new casket (or shell) is made of timber, tarred on the inside, followed by a zinc liner and then covered inside by a leak-proof plastic membrane. The zinc liner lid is sealed with a sealant. The new casket lid is then screwed or nailed in place and a nameplate giving the name and date of death of the deceased person is attached to the exterior lid of the coffin. This new casket is approved by the Environmental Health Officer prior to the date of exhumation.

Any other remains in the same burial plot that may have been disturbed during the exhumation process are re-interred in accordance with public decency and respect.

Rates

Fees for exhumation licences vary from one local authority to another.

How to apply

Exhumation licences are issued by your local authority. An application for an exhumation licence should be made to your local authority and must be accompanied by the following:

  • The appropriate fee
  • The completed application form that is available from your local authority
  • A copy of the death certificate of the deceased person
  • A completed certificate from the director of public health at your Local Health Office.
  • A completed form of consent from the cemetery management.

Where to apply

Queries in relation to the issue of exhumation licences in your area should be addressed to the Environmental Health Officer of your local authority. Contact information for all local authorities in Ireland is available at the back of this publication in the directory.

Bringing a body to Ireland for burial or cremation

When someone dies abroad, particularly if the death was sudden or unexpected, it is often difficult to know how to deal with the practical matters you need to address. Every country has its own rules about the formalities to be followed when someone dies. The purpose of the following information is to set out the general process and rules involved when bringing a body to Ireland for burial or cremation.

The information is aimed primarily at families of Irish citizens. Families of non-Irish nationals should contact the relevant embassy for their own country for advice, if they wish to bring a body toIreland. Repatriation of the remains of a deceased person toIrelandcan be a complicated and costly process. You may therefore wish to consider having the body cremated abroad and having the ashes returned toIreland.

Notification that an Irish citizen has died abroad

If the death of an Irish citizen is notified to the Irish embassy or consulate abroad, the Garda Sióchána in Ireland are asked to notify any family/next-of kin in Ireland. The embassy/consulate can also help communicate with the police or other authorities abroad.

If you have been notified of the death of an Irish citizen abroad by a tour operator or by someone else, then you should contact the Irish embassy or consulate for that country for advice.

Formal identification of the remains

Before any arrangements can be made to return a body toIreland, it will be necessary to have the remains formally identified. That is, it is necessary to have the identity of the deceased officially confirmed in line with the laws in that country. The rules on who may formally identify a deceased person can vary, but usually identification may be carried out by a travelling companion or business colleague of the deceased. Depending on local laws and rules however, it may be necessary for a family member to travel to the place where the deceased is, to confirm the identity.

Further information on the local arrangements for formal identification of Irish citizens abroad is available from the Irish embassy for the country where the death occurred. While the embassy may assist in obtaining documents such as death certificates, etc. it cannot help pay for the cost of relatives travelling to where a death occurs. Neither can the embassy pay the costs of repatriation of bodies back toIrelandexcept in exceptional circumstances.

Appointing a funeral director

In order to obtain the release of the body for repatriation from the authorities in the country where the person died, you should appoint a funeral director in that country. A funeral director is someone whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals. Services of funeral directors are not free so you should check fees and costs associated prior to engaging these services.

If you live inIrelandand contact a funeral director here, your funeral director inIrelandcan find a suitable funeral director in the other country and make the appropriate arrangements. Alternatively, the Irish embassy for the country can provide help to Irish citizens in appointing a local funeral director. If the death occurred on a package holiday, the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.

The local funeral director can prepare the body for repatriation. The funeral director can also prepare the appropriate documentation and obtain the death certificate if possible. Assistance is also available from the Irish embassy in obtaining documents such as the death certificate or medical reports. The local funeral director can also make all the necessary flight arrangements.

Clearance from the coroner

The repatriation of a body toIrelandmust be notified to the coroner inIrelandfor the district where the body is being flown to. If you have appointed a funeral director inIreland, the funeral director will contact the appropriate coroner with the required documentation. Usually, bodies being repatriated toIrelandare flown toDublinairport. In that case, it is the Dublin County Coroner who must be notified. The appropriate documentation in relation to the deceased has to be made available to the coroner for clearance by the coroner’s office. The documentation required includes

  • Medical certificate giving cause of death
  • Certification as to whether a post-mortem examination has been carried out or not
  • Authorisation to remove the body from the other country
  • Certificate to the effect that the body is not coming from an area of infectious disease

Where there are some concerns as to the circumstances of the death, the coroner may direct that an examination of the body be carried out.

Funeral arrangements

Funeral arrangements in Irelandshould not be confirmed until the coroner’s office has cleared the documentation. International regulations (Article 3 of the League of Nations International Regulations concerning the conveyance of corpses, 1937 and the Council of Europe Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses 1973) require all coffins crossing international frontiers by air or sea to be metal (zinc or lead) lined and sealed. These coffins are therefore not suitable for cremation and either the lining has to be removed or another coffin provided, if the body is to be cremated inIreland.

Registering the death

If the death is registered in the country where the person died, it is not normally registered in Ireland. Where a system of registration does not exist in that country or where it is not possible to obtain copies of the relevant civil registration record (death certificate), you should contact the General Register Office in Ireland to see if the death can be registered in Ireland.

A death certificate is an important legal document, evidence of which is frequently required inIrelandin order to deal with the deceased’s estate, access money, etc.

Rules

While Irish embassies provide consular services to Irish nationals abroad, this does not extend to non-EU nationals. Nationals of other countries should avail of consular services from their own countries’ embassies and consulates.

Rates

Repatriation of a deceased person toIrelandcan be very expensive, depending on the distance to be travelled and other factors. Check whether the person had travel insurance or private medical cover to help cover the costs. Financial assistance with the cost of repatriation of a dead body is not available from the Irish embassy.

Contacts

Irish Association of Funeral Directors

Mespil House
Mespil Business Centre
Sussex Road
Dublin 4
Ireland

Homepage: http://www.iafd.ie/

DublinCountyCoroner

Bella Vista
21 Summerhill
Dun Laoghaire
Co. Dublin
Dublin
Ireland

Tel: +353 1 230 1774

General Register Office

Government Offices
Convent Road
Roscommon
Ireland

Tel: +353 90 663 2900
Locall: 1890 25 20 76
Fax: +353 90 663 2999
Homepage: http://www.groireland.ie/

Department of Foreign Affairs

Consular Services
69-71 St. Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel: +353 1 478 0822
Homepage: http://www.dfa.ie/home

Sending a body from Ireland for burial or cremation abroad

When someone from another country dies inIrelandthere are certain formalities that must be followed before the body can be sent out ofIrelandfor burial or cremation elsewhere. The purpose of the following information is to set out the general process and rules involved.

A funeral director in Irelandcan help you deal with the formalities and can make the necessary arrangements for ‘repatriation’. Assistance is also available from the relevant embassy representing the person’s country in Ireland. If the death occurred on a package holiday inIreland, the tour operator should be able to help you with arrangements. A funeral director from the person’s country may also be able to arrange to have the body returned home.

It can be very costly to have a body repatriated from one country to another and you may wish to consider having the body cremated inIrelandand having the ashes sent to the person’s country.

Reporting the death

When a sudden, unnatural or violent death occurs, there is a legal responsibility on the doctor, Registrar of deaths, funeral director, householder and every person in charge of any institution or premises in which the deceased person was residing at the time of their death to report the death to the coroner. The appropriate coroner is the coroner for the district where the death occurred. The death may be reported to a member of the Garda Síochána, not below the rank of sergeant, who will notify the coroner. However, any person may notify the coroner of the circumstances of a particular death.

The coroner will arrange for the body to be moved to a mortuary facility and for a medical examination (post-mortem) to be carried out to determine the cause of death. The Garda Síochána will assist the coroner in arranging a formal identification of the body by a family member or a relative.

Where a person dies from a natural illness or disease for which the deceased was being treated by a doctor within one month of the death, there is no need to notify the coroner. In this case, the doctor will issue the medical certificate of the cause of death (Death Notification Form).

Registering the Death

When someone dies in Irelandthe death must be registered as soon as possible. Where the doctor issues the Death Notification Form, the death can then be registered and a death certificate can be obtained from the local Registrar of births, marriages and deaths. A death is automatically registered where a post-mortem is held at the request of the coroner however, there is likely to be a delay in getting a death certificate.

Preparing the body for shipment home

The funeral director you appoint inIrelandcan embalm and prepare the body for repatriation on funeral director’s premises. Embalming helps preserve the body. If a post-mortem has being held, the funeral director can obtain the release of the body from the coroner so that it can be prepared. It is necessary to have the body formally identified. This can be carried out by a travelling companion or business colleague of the deceased. In some cases however, it may be necessary for a family member to travel to confirm the identification.

International regulations require all coffins crossing international frontiers to be zinc or lead lined and sealed. These coffins are not suitable for cremation and either the lining has to be removed or another coffin provided in the country of destination, if the body is to be cremated.

Documentation

Before a body can be removed fromIrelandyou require the following documentation:

  • Coroner’s Removal Order/Non-infectious Note
  • Embalming Certificate
  • Passport or Identity Card
  • Funeral Director’s Declaration
  • Embassy Permit
  • Notarisation or apostilling of documents (where applicable)

Your funeral director can obtain the Removal Order from the coroner and the death certificate from the Registrar (if available). You need to find out from the embassy what formalities and documentation are required. Your funeral directors can liaise with the embassy on any formalities that need to be carried out and in obtaining the required documentation.

Travel arrangements

You need to make travel arrangements for the body fromIrelandto the deceased’s country. Your funeral director can arrange these. The body can be flown home or it can travel by ferry and over land. While travelling over land is cheaper, it also takes longer.

The embassy should be notified of the travel arrangements so that the authorities in the deceased’s country can be informed. Your funeral director normally does this. You also need a funeral director in the deceased’s country who can liaise with the relevant authorities there and arrange the removal of the body for burial or cremation when it arrives.

Costs

Repatriation of a deceased person abroad fromIrelandcan be an expensive process due to factors such as the distance to be travelled and how the body is shipped. Check whether the person had travel insurance or private medical cover which would help cover the costs. If the deceased is covered contact the insurance company as soon as possible.

Financial assistance with the cost of repatriating a deceased person abroad is not available from the authorities inIreland, just as it is unavailable from the authorities in many other countries.

Contacts

Irish Association of Funeral Directors
Mespil Business Centre
Mespil House
Sussex Road
Dublin 4
Tel: 1800 927 111
E-mail: orla.nolan@gmail.com

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