Saturday 24 February 2018

Grieving mums appeal for loved ones' deaths to be registered here

Breda Heffernan

A MOTHER who lost her son in a tragic swimming accident in the US said yesterday it feels as though a piece of him will forever be stranded across a vast ocean and miles from home.

Yvonne O'Reilly was speaking to a Dail committee as she appealed for an overhaul in the way deaths abroad are registered.

Her son, Galway student Keith (21), suffered fatal head injuries after diving off a Chicago pier into shallow water in July last year.

Yvonne and her husband Liam yesterday joined other relatives in calling on the Government to change the legislation to allow deaths of Irish nationals abroad to be registered at home.

Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs, Mrs O'Reilly said Keith, who captained a youth Irish rugby team at Lansdowne Road, loved his country and deserved to be recognised by it, even in death.

"Without a record and registration of Keith's death here in the Irish Republic, it will forever feel as though a piece of him remains stranded across a vast ocean, miles from family, miles from home.

"His future nieces and nephews will find nothing of his passing in any Irish documentation. It will be as if he simply vanished, but as we know all too well, that is not the case," she said.

Keith had just finished his third year as a civil engineering student at NUIG but, due to the downturn in the economy, was unable to secure a college placement and so he returned to Chicago where he had spent the previous summer on a J1 visa.

Mrs O'Reilly said the problem would not go away as more Irish people than ever were travelling abroad. Around 6,000 J1 visas and 22,000 working holiday visas are granted each year while Irish people took 7 million overseas trips in 2009. In the last three years, 598 Irish citizens died while abroad. "It is important to make this change now, not only to help with the grieving process, but also for future families who have to go through this awful event," she added.

Under the current legislation only certain deaths abroad can be registered.

These include the deaths of members of the Garda Siochana and the Defence Forces or deaths of Irish citizens on board an Irish ship or aircraft.

The committee was unanimous in its decision to contact Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv and ask him to amend the relevant section of the 2004 Civil Registration Act.

Irish Independent

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