Six part-time coroners get state fees of more than €100,000 a year
SIX coroners working on a part-time basis earned more than €100,000 each in state retainers and fees last year.
The figures released by the Department of Justice in response to a Freedom of Information request show that one of the highest-earning part-time coroners was the coroner for Galway West, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, who received €138,989 in fees in 2013.
Dr MacLoughlin's fees increased as a result of him overseeing the complex inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. He heard evidence at the inquest over seven days in April of last year in Galway.
The vast majority of inquests heard in coroner's courts take less than one hour.
The other part-time coroners to receive in excess of €100,000 last year were the Cork South and Cork West coroner, Frank O'Connell, who received €183,348; the Kildare coroner, Dr Denis Cusack, who received €117,400; the Wexford coroner, Dr Sean Nixon, who received €104,380; the Mayo South coroner, John O'Dwyer, who received €102,035 and the Louth coroner, Ronan Maguire, who received €102,389.
Mr O'Connell received payment of €121,429 in relation to his work as coroner in Cork South and an additional €61,919 for his role as coroner in Cork West. A further eight coroners received fees between €75,000 and €100,000. The vast majority of coroners are either solicitors or doctors.
The best-paid coroners in the country were the two full-time coroners: Dr Brian Farrell in Dublin, who received €266,463 in salary and his colleague at Cork Co Borough, Dr Myra Cullinane, who received €256,352.
A spokeswoman for Dublin City Council said that Dr Farrell's salary was reduced from €290,125 in July last year in accordance with the Haddington Road Agreement.
"The Dublin District Coroner is a full-time coroner, including on-call 24/7, weekends and bank holidays. The coroner sits every day - Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays - hearing inquests and deals with all reportable deaths in the Dublin area," the spokesperson said.
In the Dublin city area, there were 544 inquests completed in 2013, with 890 court appearances. The deaths reported totalled 4,838, with 1,798 post-mortems ordered.
The remuneration for the part-time coroners is made up of a basic retainer, which is intended to cover on-call duty and office expenses, and a fee per case ,which is paid in relation to work carried out.
According the Department of Justice, the annual retainers for part-time coroners start at €12,807 and continue up to €21,774. Coroners receive €523 for every death certified after a post-mortem and inquest; €188 for every death certified after a post-mortem; and a payment of €129 for every death reported to them.
Last year, the State's coroners oversaw 2,087 inquests - down marginally from the 2,123 in 2012. In total, coroners last year dealt with 16,182 cases, made up of reports on deaths, post-mortems and inquests.
Spokesman for the Coroners' Society of Ireland, Patrick O'Connor, said that coroner's earnings depended on the amount of work carried out.
"There have been no increases in the fee per item in recent years and salaries have been reduced," he added.