Calls for review into 'shocking and disgusting' treatment of woman buried without ceremony

Calls for review into 'shocking and disgusting' treatment of woman buried without ceremony
Sylva Tukula

The Irish Refugee Council has called for a review of how deaths in Direct Provision are handled after a transgender woman was buried without a ceremony or anyone close to her present.

Sylva Tukula died last year on August 2 at the Great Western Direct Provision centre in Galway.

Her friends and members of the Teach Solais LGBT+ Resource Centre said they only found out last week that Ms Tukula had been buried at the beginning of May.

This was despite assurances that they would be told in advance of the arrangements.

The Refugee Council said it was "vital" that an investigation into the circumstances of burials in Direct Provision is undertaken "to ensure dignity after death, openness and transparency".

They say that an open investigation by an independent inspectorate is required in such instances to identify the facts surrounding the person's death.

They say shortcomings or failings often arise when an individual is in custody, and the review should identify whether such errors occurred.

It is also important that friends, family, and other residents in the Direct Provision centre are supported and are kept informed at all stages, including regarding burial arrangements.

"The Reception and Integration Agency, the Coroner Service and An Garda Síochána are all under the aegis of the Department of Justice and Equality. This demonstrates the need for state agencies under that Department to work better together and have clear policies in place to ensure this never happens again," a spokesperson said.

It is heartbreaking for the friends of Sylva to learn of her burial after it has happened. When responsibility shifts between agencies at state level, irreparable mistakes are made.

"A clear process must urgently put in place which has the dignity of the person and the welfare of friends and family as its primary goal.”

Teach Solais has also called for an investigation, saying "the fact that Sylva’s burial occurred in the absence of a ceremony, and without attendance, is deeply offensive to everyone close to Sylva".

"This abhorrent news has left many in shock, with those in the direct provision sites feeling that they will be buried alone thousands of miles away from people they grew up with by the Irish State," a spokesperson said.

The Department of Justice said yesterday it regrets the "unintended obvious distress" caused to Ms Tukula's friends over her burial.

A spokesperson said the department would liaise with her friends and colleagues to arrange a memorial.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said a case such as Ms Tukula's will not be repeated.

Speaking today, a spokesperson for the Amach LGBTQ support group in Galway has said that the manner in which Ms Tukula's remains of Sylva Tukula were handled was “shocking and disgusting”.

She told RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that members of Amach had been devastated when they learned that Ms Tukula was buried without friends present despite being assured by both national and local State representatives that they would be notified as soon as burial arrangements were made.

We knew it would take months, but we were assured that we would be notified. We felt we had support and had lots of informal contacts.

Ms Molloy said Amach is calling for answers. “The system failed. We hope a process is put in place so that this doesn’t happen again. That this tragic outcome doesn’t happen again.

“It is shocking and disgusting that someone would be treated this way," she said.

Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke

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