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115 children in state care died of unnatural causes

ALMOST 60pc of all children who died in care during Ireland's economic boom years died of unnatural causes, a new report reveals.

Suicide, unlawful killings, drugs deaths and accidents accounted for many of the deaths according to the "seminal" report on Ireland's child protection system.

It is feared that the review could open the floodgates to litigation by surviving relatives of vulnerable children who died whilst in foster care or housed in residential homes and special units for at-risk minors.

The Irish Independent has learned that the Government has now received the report of the Independent Review into Deaths of Children in Care (IRDCC).

Its remit was to examine almost 200 deaths of children in state care between 2000 and April 2010.

The report, which runs to several hundred pages and contains "horrific" case summaries of children who died of unnatural causes, was submitted days before Christmas.

"It (the report) contains breathtaking examples of neglect by the state," said one source.

The report, which calls for a radical overhaul of Ireland's child protection services, is expected to be published within weeks after its contents are reviewed by the office of the Attorney General.

The trawl has revealed that almost 60pc of children who died in state care during the period died of unnatural causes -- 115 of the 196 deaths examined were categorised as 'unnatural deaths'.

The review included an examination of all state records, including coroner's reports.

The review team, chaired by child law expert Geoffrey Shannon, also interviewed relatives of some of the dead children.

Last night Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald described the report as "seminal".

"This report covers a 10-year period and a cohort of very vulnerable children," said Ms Fitzgerald.

"The issue of child deaths is an area that has not had much clarity and, until this review was ordered, there were no child death mechanisms in place. That has now changed."

She added that she intended to publish the report in full, subject to any legal difficulties identified by the Attorney General.

Ms Fitzgerald said that it was important to note that even where children's deaths were recorded as unnatural, this did not necessarily mean that people working in child protection services were directly responsible for those deaths.

The TD paid tribute to Mr Shannon and Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy at children's charity Barnardos, who completed the review just over a year after it was established.

Last night the Children's Rights Alliance said that publication of the report could prove to be an "invaluable opportunity" to learn from the past.

Irish Independent