Bringing a body to Ireland for burial or cremation
When someone dies abroad, particularly if the death was sudden or unexpected, it is often difficult to know how to deal with the practical matters you need to address. Every country has its own rules about the formalities to be followed when someone dies. The purpose of the following information is to set out the general process and rules involved when bringing a body to Ireland for burial or cremation.
The information is aimed primarily at families of Irish citizens. Families of non-Irish nationals should contact the relevant embassy for their own country for advice, if they wish to bring a body to Ireland. A list of foreign embassies and consulates responsible for Ireland is available here. You can read about sending a body out of Ireland here.
Repatriation of the remains of a deceased person to Ireland can be a complicated and costly process. You may therefore wish to consider having the body cremated abroad and having the ashes returned to Ireland.
Notification that an Irish citizen has died abroad
If the death of an Irish citizen is notified to the Irish embassy or consulate abroad, the Garda Sióchána in Ireland are asked to notify any family/next-of kin in Ireland. The embassy/consulate can also help communicate with the police or other authorities abroad.
If you have been notified of the death of an Irish citizen abroad by a tour operator or by someone else, then you should contact the Irish embassy/eonsulate for that country for advice.
Formal identification of the remains
Before any arrangements can be made to return a body to Ireland, it will be necessary to have the remains formally identified. That is, it is necessary to have the identity of the deceased officially confirmed in line with the laws in that country. The rules on who may formally identify a deceased person can vary, but usually identification may be carried out by a travelling companion or business colleague of the deceased. Depending on local laws and rules however, it may be necessary for a family member to travel to the place where the deceased is, to confirm the identity.
Further information on the local arrangements for formal identification of Irish citizens abroad is available from the Irish embassy for the country where the death occurred. While the embassy may assist in obtaining documents such as death certificates, etc. it cannot help pay for the cost of relatives travelling to where a death occurs. Neither can the embassy pay the costs of repatriation of bodies back to Ireland except in exceptional circumstances.
Appointing a funeral director
In order to obtain the release of the body for repatriation from the authorities in the country where the person died, you should appoint a funeral director in that country. A funeral director is someone whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals. Services of funeral directors are not free so you should check fees and costs associated prior to engaging these services.
If you live in Ireland and contact a funeral director here, your funeral director in Ireland can find a suitable funeral director in the other country and make the appropriate arrangements. Alternatively, the Irish embassy for the country can provide help to Irish citizens in appointing a local funeral director. If the death occurred on a package holiday, the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.
The local funeral director can prepare the body for repatriation. The funeral director can also prepare the appropriate documentation and obtain the death certificate if possible. Assistance is also available from the Irish embassy in obtaining documents such as the death certificate or medical reports. The local funeral director can also make all the necessary flight arrangements.
Clearance from the coroner
The repatriation of a body to Ireland must be notified to the coroner in Ireland for the district where the body is being flown to. If you have appointed a funeral director in Ireland, the funeral director will contact the appropriate coroner with the required documentation. Usually, bodies being repatriated to Ireland are flown to Dublin airport. In that case, it is the Dublin District Coroner who must be notified. The appropriate documentation in relation to the deceased has to be made available to the coroner for clearance by the coroner's office. The documentation required includes
- Medical certificate giving cause of death
- Certification as to whether a post-mortem examination has been carried out or not
- Authorisation to remove the body from the other country
- Certificate to the effect that the body is not coming from an area of infectious disease
Where there are some concerns as to the circumstances of the death, the coroner may direct that an examination of the body be carried out. Read more about the powers of coroners here.
Funeral arrangements in Ireland should not be confirmed until the coroner's office has cleared the documentation. International regulations (Article 3 of the League of Nations International Regulations concerning the conveyance of corpses, 1937 and the Council of Europe Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses 1973) require all coffins crossing international frontiers by air or sea to be metal (zinc or lead) lined and sealed. These coffins are therefore not suitable for cremation and either the lining has to be removed or another coffin provided if the body is to be cremated in Ireland. Read more about funerals and cremations here.
Registering the death
If the death is registered in the country where the person died, it is not normally registered in Ireland. Where a system of registration does not exist in that country or where it is not possible to obtain copies of the relevant civil registration record (death certificate), you should contact the General Register Office in Ireland to see if the death can be registered in Ireland.
A death certificate is an important legal document, evidence of which is frequently required in Ireland in order to deal with the deceased's estate, access money, etc. Read more about dealing with the deceased persons estate here.
Bringing ashes home
If the deceased has been cremated abroad, you may wish to bring the ashes home. The transport of human ashes will normally require a death certificate and a cremation certificate to be presented at the place of departure. There may be additional requirements depending on the country you are departing from. You should contact the relevant Irish embassy or consulate to check for any local requirements.
You should also contact you transport carrier to find out if the ashes should be carried as hand luggage or as checked-in luggage. You may be asked to carry the ashes in a non-metallic container so they can be x-rayed by security.
While Irish embassies provide consular services to Irish nationals abroad, this does not extend to non-EU nationals. nationals of other countries should avail of consular services from their own countries' embassies and consulates.
Repatriation of a deceased person to Ireland can be very expensive, depending on the distance to be travelled and other factors. Check whether the person had travel insurance or private medical cover to help cover the costs. Financial assistance with the cost of repatriation of a dead body is not available from the Irish embassy.
Contact information for all Irish embassies and consulates abroad is available here.