Buried Alone


Last year, on August 2,  asylum seeker Sylva Tukula, who was living in the Direct Provision system in Galway city, died.

Due to Sylva’s status, the Department of Justice and Equality was ‘obligated to investigate the circumstances of her death, to liaise with friends and fellow residents of the Direct Provision centre where she lived, and to make culturally-appropriate burial arrangements’.

Via Teach Solais, an LGBT resource centre in Galway City:

Close friends and colleagues of Sylva were assured by both national and local State representatives that we would be notified once arrangements were made.

Sadly, we were recently informed that our dear friend was buried by the State at the beginning of May.

Members of our community and, especially those close to Sylva, were devastated to hear of her burial with no one close to her present.

We had the understanding that we would be made aware of the funeral arrangements in advance so that our community, Sylva’s Galway family, could be a part of this service, and to ensure that her life was celebrated on the day of her burial.

We continually checked with Government representatives for updates, while receiving no new information regarding any arrangements.

The fact that Sylva’s burial occurred in the absence of a ceremony, and without attendance, is deeply offensive to everyone close to Sylva, particularly members of the LGBT+ community who lived in the Great Western, who knew her from the Eglinton Direct Provision centresin Galway City and those that met her throughout her life in Galway.

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.

We are left with more questions than answers as to how this has been allowed to occur.

Our dear friend Sylva was failed by the system in which she was entrapped, in many ways; yet at all times she bore these failings with grace, with dignity and with a warm smile.

We strongly request this matter be investigated both to the fullest possible extent and in a timely manner, to establish how this system failed our friend Sylva this last, final time.

In her honour we must ensure that this tragic outcome does not occur again, to anyone.

Teach Solais (Facebook)

Yesterday: ‘The Department Of Justice Is Not The Appropriate Department’

53 thoughts on “Buried Alone

  1. Shane Duffy

    The question must be asked, why didn’t “Members of our community and, especially those close to Sylva…” bother to hold and pay for a burial service themselves? Why wait for the tax payer to do it?

    1. newsjustin

      “Direct Provision”

      These people are essentially property of the state while they remain in that system.

    2. Dr.Fart MD

      shows how much you know, duffy. sweet fupp all. didn’t stop ya marauding in with your big ignorant comment tho. ya absolute dope.

  2. Bebe

    RIP Sylva – sympathies to her family at direct provision and LGBT family.

    I wonder if Sylva’s burial place is in Bohermore cemetery?
    I am sure the people of Galway would come out as they do annually for the forgotten Magdalene women buried in recently marked graves in the same location.

    Hoping a memorial service could be arranged at the site of burial to appropriately recall Sylva’s life among those to whom she formed friendships during her time in Ireland. A service was held recently for Baby Belle found at Balbriggan who also was buried alone in the Angel Plot in Glasnevin on March 8th. A memorial service was held on Mother’s Day arranged by concerned members of the public.

    Sylva deserves a memorial and fond remembrance.


  3. Bebe

    @Shane Duffy

    Sylva was in Direct Provision. The State were/are responsible in this instance and the community at LGBT (I don’t speak for them) most likely did not have the authority to intervene. They requested involvement but it appears, just as with Baby Belle of Balbriggan Beach, their wishes were disregarded and both Baby Belle and Sylva were buried alone. We are better than this.

    Think of Sylva as your family member, a person close to you, far from her homeland, losing her battle for life while in the care of the whatever State she travelled to/sought refuge in.. Losing her battle for life and then buried alone when her friends wanted to participate. Would you want that for your loved one?

    1. Shane Duffy

      Ultimately Sylva must take full responsibility for what happened to her, not the state. She decided to come here, she decided to stay in DP, no one else. The way home to her family and friends, who were happy to stay there, was always an option.

      1. Dr.Fart MD

        you’re an absolutely disgusting excuse of a man, duffy. not only are you entirely wrong, but your absolute lack of empathy is unbelievable, and for someone who just died. i genuinely wish for terrible things in your future.

  4. GiggidyGoo

    “….feeling that they will be buried alone thousands of miles away from people they grew up with by the Irish State.”

    So what do they require? To be repatriated to their original home country for burial. Or to have the people they grew up with travel here for the burial.

    1. millie st murderlark

      It’s one or the other, is it? That’s dreadfully nuanced of you.

      It’s too much for those who knew her here in Ireland to want to pay their final respects, right?

      1. GiggidyGoo

        No problems with that Millie. The people she was in DP here with should have been accommodated to pay their last respects.

        I’m questioning though if they are looking for repatriation upon passing away.

        1. millie st murderlark

          Ah. Sorry, I misread your comment, or the tone of it perhaps. Thanks for clarifying GG

    2. Mickey Twopints

      That’s the kind of idiotic, immature, ill-considered, and loaded question we’ve come to expect from Cian. Have a think about that, Giggidy.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        Just answered Millie above. Her friends here should have been accommodated to pay their last respects. What was thrown into the mix was not that though.

      2. Mickey Twopints

        I also misread the tone of your earlier post, and I apologise for snapping at you.

  5. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

    Our dear friend Sylva was failed by the system in which she was entrapped, in many ways; yet at all times she bore these failings with grace, with dignity and with a warm smile.

    Department of Justice & Equality my ______
    rhymes with troll

    We’re better than this
    Look at the traffic to Longford to show solidarity with a Shopkeeper
    From all of us, the everyday people of Ireland
    And this is how the Government Dept responsible for all our rights conduct themselves?
    WTF like

    Is there some sort of higher law out there that can be produced and exercised to prove that our Direct Provision system is a breech of all sorts of Human Rights?

    Christ t’night

    1. Mickey Twopints

      We have been taken to task several times over our treatment of those in need of international protection by the UN and the EU, no less. And yet here we are, still.

    2. GiggidyGoo

      There are people in DP that should be allowed in. But there are people in DP, long term, that there are questions over. Appeal after appeal. The State says no on a number of occasions (no doubt with good reason). Those cases should be finalized- maybe allow one appeal but no more. If the State, after two hearings, decide against it, then deportation should be instant.

      1. Mickey Twopints

        I have difficulty with this position, one I see out forward frequently by various commenters on Broadsheet.

        Have you ever had dealings with official Ireland, Giggidy? Ever had your application for something refused, and had to appeal a decision made by some pencil pusher who takes the safe bet and turns you down? Ever had to move beyond an appeal refusal? Made legal moves to have your rights as a citizen vindicated? I have, as have many more who are Irish citizens born in Ireland.

        Getting your rights through the labyrinthine and opaque systems of the DoJE is a nightmare battle even as a person with no fear of deportation or of upsetting the “wrong” official, or of being sent back to a place where you may have been tortured and threatened with death.

        How does your trite solution of “one appeal and no more” sound in the light of that?

        1. GiggidyGoo

          Yes I have had run ins with officialdom in government departments. Yes I’ve appealed decisions to no avail. Some sneaky legislation introduced for instance that should have been advised to a small particular group of citizens which it affected and who would have been in a particular database. But no such advice. Three years later it comes to light and a fine. Appealed. The answer ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’ The fine – a couple of grand.
          I’m applying the same here.
          The people entitled to stay should be allowed. The people not entitled, and still after a review/appeal should not. Straight down the line.

    1. GiggidyGoo

      May – it says in the article. Which suggests that there may have been some attempt to contact next of kin?

  6. postmanpat

    Buried alone? Have a memorial in her honor anywhere you like, no one is stopping you. get in your Sunday best, hire a preacher to do his /her thing and book a section of a pub for pints and sandwiches after. Proximity to a corpse is irrelevant. Being with someone when they are dying is one thing, but flapping over the where, why, when of a bead body is pointless. Backward superstitious Ireland alive and well. We worry about how someone’s remains were handled and what magic prayers where said over them in earshot of whoever. because…? soul floats in a void alone and cant move on? really, Id love to know. Seems a bit regressive and religious for a LGBT organization. Investigation? Ill tell you what happened . The government does not have to explain itself to a third party.
    “We had the understanding that we would be made aware of the funeral arrangements in advance so that our community…” did you get anything in writing? catch the name of the person who told you that? no ? “We continually checked with Government representatives for updates, while receiving no new information regarding any arrangements.” so your not resourceful of effective and failed at your job as a self proclaimed resource. Teach Solais (Facebook)!!! Ladies and Gentlemen!! The friends of Sylva would have been better off following things up themselves.

    1. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

      D’ya know
      The Irish Defence Forces regularly post details of funerals of former service men for people to attend
      Lads with no- one left
      Same with the National Graves Assoc
      Irish Centres around the UK, America, Oz, Canada even South ‘Merica do the same

      That’s the Paddy way
      A daycent send off
      That’s Patriotism
      Not the ignorance being streamed, tweeted and spread by a certain someone, whom you are particularly familiar with

      So there is no reason why anyone on this Island not participating in that swill of bigoted opportunistic begrudgery wouldn’t have wanted the same for Sylva.

      Then again maybe you and yer pals didn’t know that about us, or were too thick and intolerant to notice. Anything is possible since yere notion of Patriotism is a girl who situates our Island of Ireland in the British Isles

      1. postmanpat

        Well that was incoherent and all over the place. .British Isles? what in gods name are you on about? Blimey!! Sorry for criticizing Teach Solais so. They are ineffective chasing up the burial details for one of there own and go and brag about how they didn’t do their job properly. What are they looking for? praise? Any friend of Salva could and should have chased this up personally and gotten better results than this so called “resource centre”. Do they have even one name of a government personnel or times of phone calls or emails made to government departments? I doubt it. If I was tasked to follow it up I would have gotten the date time of the burial. Any random Irish citizen probably could have. The government is a sham sure , fair enough, but Teach Solais are hardly an effective organization either. They probably made one phone call to citizens information left a massage and called it a day. Bravo!!!!

    2. realPolithicks

      You’re such a lovely person paddy, please do continue to bring fresh light and joy into the lives of all us broadsheeters.

  7. gringo

    This is a cultural thing. There is a long tradition of burying people quietly in unmarked graves by many organisations in Ireland, like the priests, the nuns, the provos and now the Dept. of Justice.

  8. Bebe

    ouch @ postmanpat – shoot the messenger, eh?

    ‘the Government does not have to answer to a third party’

    I disagree. The Government are elected representatives who are entrusted to run affairs with a moral and ethical responsibility. They are answerable to us, the electorate. I am not a member of LGBT nor do I wish to speak for them as I’m quite sure they can speak for themselves, but leaving that aside, what about Sylva’s friends in DP. Did they not have any entitlement to participate in her funeral service? Presumably English would not be their first language, they may have been overwhelmed by the system and unable to ascertain details of her funeral for their attendance. Every effort should have been made to include them – not exclude them.

    Should she have been buried alone without a ceremony?
    Should her friends have been informed so they could participate?

    For those of you who are interested in HR and the DP system ICCL put forward the following submission to Committee on Justice and Equality last month.

    1. postmanpat

      Teach Solais could speak English. They didn’t chase it up adequately, simple as. If you or I was aware of the situation I am 100% one of us would have gotten to the bottom of this, any commenter on BS would have. But we are only hearing of this now. Teach Solais appear aware of Broadsheet.ie so why didn’t they ask for help when they needed it? to hog all the glory? Pride? incompetence? The friends of Salva probably thought this issue was in good hands. As usual third party agents making matters worse. and believe me when it comes to agents and their uncanny ability to deflect blame (the only thing they tend to be good at) Its something I have a lot of experience in. I’m not defending the Government policy I don’t like it , I don’t like Direct Provision but I’m not so naïve to think an official line to whatever dept would given useable information without being stonewalled & fobbed off dozen times before getting anywhere . And aside from all of that . Buried alone? what does that even mean?. as opposed to what? that kind of upsetting language does noting but stir up impotent emotionalism.

  9. Ian-O

    Some of the comments on this thread really do show the dearth of common human decency by some.

    Irrespective of whether she was entitled to be here is irrelevant, irrespective of whether you believe in Big Mo of Islam or Babby J, Ganesha or whatever faith yer having, many people put huge store into someones burial.

    For some, the idea of being buried alone is horrifying and its hardly a stretch to allow the friends/family of the deceased to at least participate in whatever ceremony takes place.

    But this is Ireland, we just never seem to grasp these small but important intricacies.

    1. gringo

      Official Ireland rarely bothers to hide its contempt for people who have no money or property.

    2. Amorphous Kerry Blob

      I’m not sure how much the comments here are representative of Irish people in general. I’d imagine Broadsheet have attracted a good few right wingers (and repelled a good few on the left) due to some of their posts involving conspiracy theories (and the comments they generated.)
      Speaking of those comments, half the comments on this page could be Broadsheet staff trying to get people to comment. It’s happened before.

        1. Amorphous Kerry Blob

          EXACTLY! It was their Gemma O’Doherty coverage that got me visiting this site.

          Egged on by commenters who accidentally revealed themselves to be bodger/JR/whoever!

  10. Bebe

    @ian-o – and that is to our collective shame.

    I hope Sylva’s friends at DP and LGBT Galway get together to hold a remembrance ceremony which local radio/media and broadsheet could promote so that all those who wish to attend, as a mark of respect, could do so. I’d certainly make every effort to be there to show that ordinary people of Ireland care – what occurred is against our own customs – as my African friend recently told me, when a young person dies from our community, we lament their loss. That is what is important to their community – and to ours. There is no difference. If this were the burial of an Irish person in let’s say, London or Birmingham, we would be appalled.

    Hopefully we will get the opportunity to support those who miss Sylva.

    1. Ian-O

      The asylum appeals process is quite complex, but irrespective, a human being died and its only the decent thing to do to allow that persons passing be marked in a manner fitting to their background and beliefs.

      Shades of Tuam to this – just dump ’em and move on. Nobody truly important died so no matter (to some it would appear.)

  11. The Old Boy

    Leaving her remains on a slab in a freezer for nine months, whatever the reasons may have been, is quite horrific.

    1. Ian-O

      One would hope that the recent issue with mortuary conditions in Waterford was an isolated incident?

      For some faiths, like Islam, immediate burial is the norm I believe?

      1. Cian

        I’m guessing that there would have been a post-mortem.

        But that shouldn’t have caused a 9-month delay.

        There must be another reason for it. That isn’t in the public domain.

  12. SOQ

    Funerals are part of Irish culture, we celebrate the deceased’s life through them. There is more than certain irony in those who consider themselves to be guardians of our country ignoring this cultural fact. It was just common decently to let her friends know, so that they could pay their respects.

    It would never never have even gotten into the public domain if it wasn’t for this community group. And while we are on the subject- Slyva was a trans woman from an African country. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that her fear of persecution was real.


    1. Ian-O

      Idiot me didn’t even connect the dots on this one.

      If someone is transgender in most African countries, that is a very real reason to request asylum. Disgraceful she wasn’t granted leave to stay.

  13. SOQ

    It is very disturbing how the agri industry- meaning Irish farmers, can employ illegal immigrants from outside Europe to live in caravans out the back of their homes (which they definitely do), during the absolute winter months while also- someone with a very legitimate reason to be here dies (?) and gets buried alone by the state.

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