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Thousands of Irish deaths abroad never officially recorded by State

March 20, 2013 for Metro Èireann

Between 2007 and 2012, an estimated 1,000 Irish people died abroad – none of which were officially recorded in Ireland, it has emerged.

According to the 2004 Civil Registration Act currently in effect, the death of an Irish citizen abroad is only recorded and registered in the State if the death occurs on an Irish aircraft or Irish ship; on any foreign ship or aircraft in transit; or if the deceased is a serving member of An Garda Síochána or the Irish Defence Forces.

The General Register Office, charged with the registration of deaths in Ireland, says those who die outside of the State are not registered in Ireland if there is a system of registration where the death occurred, or if there is a possibility of obtaining a death certificate.

As a result, some hundreds of Irish deaths abroad remain officially unregistered in Ireland every year. These include the deaths of six Irish citizens in the terrorist attacks on New York on 11 September 2001, in which it’s estimated that one-sixth of the 3,000 people who died had Irish heritage.


More recently there was the tragic death of 22-year-old Brian Forde of Athenry, Co Galway, who fell from the roof of his hostel in Manhattan, New York in July 2009.

Forde was on vacation in the US to play hurling for a few weeks when the accident occurred.

Just two weeks later, a student at NUI Galway died in Chicago after diving into shallow water.

Keith O’Reilly, 21, was visiting the US with friends for the summer when he hit his head on hidden rocks at North Avenue Beach on Lake Michigan. His family flew to Chicago to be at his bedside when he died two days after the incident.


O’Reilly’s mother said she felt she would never get closure over her son’s death until it is officially registered in Ireland.

Students at NUI Galway have since started a Facebook group called ‘Help bring them home’ that hopes to change the law to require the recording of all Irish citizen deaths abroad. The group reports that they have received support for their petition from 23 TDs in the Dáil, including Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Last December, the Tánaiste – who is also Foreign Affairs Minister – confirmed that almost 1,200 Irish citizens died while abroad between the years 2007 to 2012, with 194 dying abroad last year alone.

That same month Galway West deputy Sean Kyne (Fine Gael) introduced a bill to provide for the recording in Ireland of the deaths of all Irish citizens who die abroad, although no decision has been made as of yet.

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