The government has been accused of taking coroners for granted by failing to adequately resource the service.
The accusation by Patrick O’Connor, the public information officer of the Coroners Society of Ireland, comes as concerns were raised about the increase in death rates in Ireland in recent days.
An analysis of notices on Rip.ie, undertaken by the, shows there were 9,718 deaths published from December 1, 2022, to January 25, 2023 — up 20% from 8,075 for the same period to January 25, 2022.
The figure was also considerably higher than the 8,135 death notices published in the same period to January 25, 2021, despite that period being at the height of the pandemic. Some 6,802 death notices were published for the eight-week period to January 25, 2019.
Mr O’Connor, who is coroner in the district of Mayo, said that the increasing death numbers have led to an increase in the demands on coroners, who, he says, are not adequately resourced.
He said: “Coroners are having additional strains with the same amount of resources. The resources that are given to coroners are not adequate. For example, even if it is only remuneration — the remuneration for coroners has not changed for 15 years. The last increase for coroners was on September 1 2008 and in fact, in April 2009, coroners’ remuneration was reduced because of FEMPI. Coroners are paid less for doing a lot more now.”
Mr O’Connor added: “It is certainly badly funded and badly resourced. Those in power are taking coroners for granted and don’t appreciate the considerable amount of work and additional work that they are doing and has been foisted on them as a result of the pandemic and other records that they are asked to keep.”
There are three different rates of fees for coroners:
- Death reported which does not proceed further to post-mortem or inquest: €129.68
- Post mortem conducted which does not proceed to inquest: €188.54
- Inquest held and death certified following post-mortem and inquest: €522.97.
The rate is enshrined in the Coroners Act 1962 (Fees and Expenses) Regulations 2009.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said work is ongoing within the department “on preparing for a review that will deliver a comprehensive service improvement plan to address identified issues in the coronial system".
He said the priorities for reform include enhancing customer service and improving the interaction with pathology services.
He added: “The department, at the request of the Coroner Society of Ireland, is giving consideration to the reduction in coronial fees applied in 2009. Restoration of the previous rate of fees will require consultation with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform, Housing, Heritage and Local Government and the Local Authorities which fund all Coroners other than the Dublin district.”
The Dublin City Coroner is the only coronial service falling under the remit of the Department of Justice.