A new bill which has just been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas will make life easier for families of missing persons, according to Cork senator Colm Burke.
The Civil Law (Presumption of Death) Bill will allow families to make an application to the courts for a presumption of death order, which can then enable a death certificate to be issued.
Up until now, a person could not be legally declared dead until they were missing at least seven years.
Mr Burke pointed out that this was particularly tough on families where they knew their loved one was dead, such as in the case of an accident at sea or other tragedy where a body could not be found.
The lack of a death certificate for seven years could have a major and lasting impact on the family as it is necessary for many financial and other issues, such as mortgage insurance policies, to be resolved.
“It has been very difficult for families in these circumstances up until now,” Mr Burke said. “This bill comes at no real cost to the state but will make life easier for families going through a tragedy.”
Under the new law, a presumption of death order can be issued where the circumstances make it ‘virtually certain’ a person is dead, such as in the case of an accident.
The order can also be made where the length of time a person has been missing suggest it is ‘highly probable’ they have died.
Mr Burke first introduced this under another name as a private member’s bill in 2014 before resubmitting with the help of other senators after the 2016 general election.
He said the passage through the Oireachtas of this and other private member’s legislation showed that the senate, which was the subject of a referendum in 2013, can be a force for real change in Irish politics.