Statement by the Department of Justice and Equality on the death of Ms. Sylva Tukula
The Department of Justice and Equality has expressed its deepest sympathies and condolences to the friends and colleagues of the deceased, Ms. Sylva Tukula. Indeed shortly after her death, officials from the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) attended a memorial for her organised by her friends in the community and centre management and funded by the Department.
That said, the Department also deeply regrets the unintended obvious distress caused to Ms. Tukula’s friends and colleagues upon hearing of her burial after the event.
Unfortunately, communication of the release of Ms. Tukula’s remains was only confirmed to RIA after the event, by which time she had unfortunately already been buried. However the Department intends to liaise with her friends and colleagues and to offer to hold an appropriate memorial event in the locality, which they can attend.
Minister of State David Stanton will write to representatives from Amach LGBT+ today.
By way of background, where a person dies while they are being provided with accommodation by RIA, RIA works closely with the centre manager to assist the family in accessing the supports provided by the State, and to ensure that any residents affected by the death are assisted in accessing services that can support them. All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s office. As is the case with all Gardaí/Coroner matters, the Reception and Integration Agency is not privy to information pertaining to individual investigations carried out under their remit.
Following the death of Ms. Tukula, RIA undertook to assist with her burial and to liaise with her friends through centre management and a local NGO. A member of RIA staff was in contact with An Garda Síochána (AGS) in relation to this matter in late March 2019 to get an update on the release of the remains. AGS advised that a request was to be made to the Superintendent’s office to have Ms Tukula’s remains released for burial. This request was made on 4 April 2019 and RIA sent reminders on 17 April 2019, and 3 May 2019.
An update from the Superintendent’s office was received by RIA on 21 May stating that all avenues had been exhausted for contacting Ms Tukula’s next of kin and that the decision to release her remains now rested with the Coroner’s office in Galway West. The following day RIA contacted the Coroner’s office who advised RIA to contact the University Hospital in Galway. Upon contacting the hospital, RIA was informed that the burial of Ms Tukula had taken place on 9 May 2019 on the authority of the Coroner.
In light of the above, it is clear that there was a breakdown in communication in this particular case, which the Department very much regrets. The Department will take all necessary steps to ensure that this outcome is never repeated.