An inquest into the death of a Galway woman took place a year after her passing without her next-of-kin being informed, it was claimed this week.
Fine Gael TD for Galway West and Mayo South Seán Kyne said the issue was raised with him by a constituent, the woman’s daughter.
Deputy Kyne said the incident “understandably added to the grief and loss involved”.
The local TD, who lives outside Moycullen, was speaking in the Dail after lending his support to a private members bill tabled by Deputy Clare Daly to overhaul the coroner system and make inquests mandatory in all cases of maternity-related deaths.
The Coroners Bill seeks to consolidate and extend the law relating to coroners, their investigations and inquests, including the introduction of a new requirement that an inquest takes place in all cases where a woman dies during pregnancy or in the six weeks following delivery.
The Government, represented by Minister of State Simon Harris, has permitted the bill to proceed to committee stage, which is unusual for private members bills. At Committee Stage the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald intends to introduce significant amendments to the bill to reflect the work already under way at the Department of Justice.
“Amending the law so that an inquest is held in all cases of maternity deaths is a very sensible measure which is currently being delayed because of the substantial work involved in overhauling the entire coroner system,” stated Deputy Kyne. “Not only are changes required as to when an inquest is held but changes are also necessary in how inquests are held and the procedures followed.”
He stressed that the way the deceased’s next-of-kin is treated is particularly important.
“One constituent from Galway who raised this issue with me told of how after a year’s delay the inquest into the death of her mother took place without her knowledge. This, understandably, added to the grief and loss involved.
“It is unacceptable for an inquest to take place without informing the next-of-kin. It is my hope that the Coroners Bill, and the Committee Stage amendments, will bring about the necessary changes to prevent this from happening again, as well as making inquests compulsory in all cases of maternity-related deaths.
He said such changes will benefit the families involved and also the wider society by increasing transparency, openness and accountability in the workings of the institutions of the State.