Department of Justice apologises for burying Sylva Tukula without informing friends

A statement said they regretted 'the unintended obvious distress caused to Ms Tukula’s friends and colleagues'.

Sylva Tukula wearing a cap sitting on the floor beside a banner for AMACH LGBT

Following the upsetting news that the Irish State buried Sylva Tukula without informing friends and loved ones, the Department of Justice and Equality has released a statement of apology.

Sylva was found dead in the early hours of August 2, 2018, in the Great Western Direct Provision centre in Galway. A statement released by AMACH! LGBT+, members of the centre and friends of Sylva said, “Close friends and colleagues of Sylva were assured by both national and local State representatives that we would be notified once arrangements were made. Sadly, we were recently informed that our dear friend was buried by the State at the beginning of May. Members of our community and, especially those close to Sylva, were devastated to hear of her burial with no-one close to her present.”

In a statement shared by Hot Press, the Department of Justice said it “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.”

The statement from the Department of Justice continued, “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.”

“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.”

The statement released by Sylva’s loved ones concluded “AMACH! LGBT+ intend to work with those who knew and loved Sylva to mark her burial and celebrate her life. We would ask that media respect the privacy of all those affected by this news. Anyone who wishes to be a part of this event is encouraged to contact us at [email protected] or 0862386183/0857364536.”

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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