Irish government 'regrets' distress over woman's state burial

Sylva Takula
Image caption Sylva Takula died in August 2018

The Irish government has said it "deeply regrets" causing distress to friends of an asylum seeker by not telling them of her burial.

Sylva Takula was living in a state-funded accommodation facility in Galway city when she died in August 2018.

Officials unsuccessfully attempted to contact next of kin about her death before arranging a state burial in May.

The Department for Justice and Equality said there had been a "breakdown of communication" in the case.

Friends were devastated to realise Ms Takula's burial happened without their knowledge.

Residents of the home where she lived told they were "very upset" when they heard about the burial.

They said it was "abhorrent" for them to learn their friend had been buried alone, thousands of miles from her South African home, and that they were angry the burial had been held without them.

They have called for an investigation into what happened.

'Breakdown of communication'

The Department of Justice and Equality said it "deeply regrets the unintended obvious distress caused to Ms Tukula's friends and colleagues upon hearing of her burial after the event".

Cameron Keighron, chairman of Amach! LGBT, said Ms Takula was a friend of the charity.

He said board members had asked to be notified of Ms Takula's planned burial.

"Everybody who knew her is devastated and angry and want to know how this happened," he said.

"We are upset and disappointed in the system.

"This is a human issue irrespective of where she was living. Everyone who knew her has been affected by this."

A Department of Justice and Equality spokesperson said there was a "breakdown of communication" in the case, which involved several government agencies including the department, An Garda Síochána (Irish police), the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) and the coroner's office.

Mr Keighron welcomed the regret expressed over the miscommunication, but said it "does not undo the upset that has been caused".


A Department of Justice and Equality spokesperson said shortly after Ms Tukula's death, officials from the RIA attended a memorial for her organised by her friends in the community and centre management and funded by the department.

David Stanton, a minister with the department, will write to representatives from County Galway charity Amach! LGBT.

In a statement, Amach LGBT Galway said: "Members of our community and, especially those close to Sylva, were devastated to hear of her burial with no-one close to her present.

"This abhorrent news has left many in shock, with those in the direct provision sites feeling that they will be buried alone thousands of miles away from people they grew up with by the Irish state.

"Anyone who has had a loved one pass away would empathise with how this has affected those that knew her, and how devastating this act would feel."