Calls for urgent review into how deaths in Direct Provision are handled

An urgent review has been demanded into how deaths in Direct Provision are handled after a transgender woman was buried without anyone she knew present.

Sylva Tukula, who was living in the Great Western Direct Provision centre in Galway, was buried at the start of May without any of her friends or colleagues being notified.

Ms Tukula, believed to have been in her 30s, died on August 2 last. Her body was held for nine months before being buried early in May after gardaí were unsuccessful in contacting her next of kin.

The Amach! Teach Solais LGBT+ Resource Centre in Galway said it had been “assured by both national and local State representatives that we would be notified once arrangements were made” for Ms Tukula’s burial.

The group said they were “devastated” to then find out Ms Tukula, whom they described as a “dear friend”, had been buried without anyone she knew present.

The Irish Refugee Council condemned the incident and said a review into how deaths in direct Provision are handled was needed in order to “ensure dignity after death, openness and transparency.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said a “breakdown in communication” between its department, An Garda Síochána and the coroner’s office in Galway had led to the error.

It said the department's Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) had contacted the coroner’s office in Galway West regarding the release of Ms Tukula's remains and were told to contact

University Hospital Galway. On doing so, they were informed that her burial had taken place on May 9 on the authority of the coroner.

The Department said it “deeply regrets the unintended obvious distress caused to Ms Tukula’s friends and colleagues".

It said Minister of State David Stanton would write to representatives from Amach! and that it would be liaising with friends and colleagues of Ms Tukula to hold a memorial event.

“The Department will take all necessary steps to ensure that this outcome is never repeated.”

Maria Molloy, a spokesperson for the Amach! LGBTQ support group, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke: “It is shocking and disgusting that someone would be treated this way.”

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD also called the incident “a deeply sad, quite shocking, and wholly unacceptable situation" and said he would write to the Minister for Justice and raise the issue in the Dáil.

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