Coronial data on unidentified remains published for first time
Coronial data on unidentified human remains has been published by the Department of Justice for the first time in a bid to achieve breakthroughs in unsolved missing persons cases.
There are around 856 unsolved missing persons cases live on the Garda Pulse system, many of which have remained unsolved for long periods of time.
Advancements in DNA profiling have led to case breakthroughs in recent years. The provision of a DNA profile to Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) by family members of a missing person can assist in solving unidentified bodies and missing person cases.
With this in mind, coroners were asked late last year to return updated details of any unidentified remains for their coronial district as part of their annual statutory returns to the minister for justice. Then-justice minister Helen McEntee committed to publishing this data once collated.
The Department established a forum in July 2021 alongside An Garda Síochána’s missing persons unit and FSI to facilitate information exchange on unidentified remains. The unidentified remains database has been compiled following an analysis of coroners’ records.
The data published today comprises 44 records. DNA profiles for 28 unidentified remains are on the National DNA Database.
The Department intends to arrange for samples of the remaining 16 unidentified remains to be attained where possible, and FSI will attempt to extract DNA from these samples and upload DNA profiles to the National DNA Database. Given the complexities associated with historical remains, this process is expected to take some time to complete.
While the data being published today comprises the first full list of unidentified remains, additional cases may come to light. As a result the Department intends to publish updates to the unidentified remains data on an annual basis.
James Browne, minister of state in the Department of Justice, said: “Today, as details of unidentified remains are published for the first time, we remember in particular the families and friends of missing people in Ireland and recognise the ongoing pain suffered and the lack of closure in the absence of the remains of their loved ones.
“I know that the families of missing people have long called for the release of this information. We have listened to that request and I welcome the publication of that data today.
“It is important to say that this will not have been an easy task for coroners, given many of these files pre-date digitisation and would have required a physical trawl. I thank the coroners for their co-operation, and hope that the release of this information may assist in the identification and location of missing family members.
“Importantly, there may be something contained in the information released today that triggers a memory or rings a bell with any one of us. If you or someone you know has any information that might assist in solving a missing person case, I would urge you to report it to An Garda Síochána.
“It’s never too late, and any information provided to An Garda Síochána may help those suffering the loss of their missing loved one to find some answers.”