What is a coroner?

A coroner is an independent public official who is legally responsible for investigating sudden, violent or unexplained deaths to find out if the death is due to natural or unnatural causes.

A coroner may call for a post-mortem examination to find out the cause of death. If they the discover that the death is due to unnatural causes, then an inquest may be held to find out how the person died.

A coroner has some legal powers but does not have the full powers of the Courts.

How coroners are appointed

There is one coroner assigned to each coroner district, but more than one coroner can be appointed in Dublin. A coroner can be temporarily appointed or assigned to a district if the number or nature of deaths in the district calls for it.

Coroner districts are roughly the same as local authority districts, but some counties have more than one coroner district. For example, Wicklow has 2 coroner districts: Wicklow East and Wicklow West.

Coroners are appointed to districts by:

Their expenses are managed by the relevant local authority.

Coroner's role and responsibilities

A coroner investigates the circumstances of sudden, unexplained and violent deaths. A coroner will first establish whether or not the death was due to natural causes. This may require a post-mortem examination, sometimes followed by an inquest.

If a post-mortem is required, this will be done by a pathologist on behalf of the coroner. If the death is due to unnatural causes, a coroner can decide to hold an inquest.

The coroner essentially establishes the "who, when, where and how" of unexplained death. A coroner is not allowed to consider civil or criminal liability – they must simply establish the facts.

Death from illness within one month of seeing a doctor

A coroner will not be involved if a person dies from an illness that they had been to see their doctor about within one month before their death.

Their doctor will issue the medical certificate of the cause of death. The death can then be registered and a death certificate can be obtained.

Reporting a death to the coroner

Sudden, unexplained or violent deaths should be reported to the coroner by:

  • A healthcare professional, if the death was due to natural causes in a nursing home or if the doctor had not seen the deceased within one month before their death
  • The Garda Síochána, if the death was from unnatural causes
  • The deceased person’s doctor
  • A funeral undertaker
  • The Registrar of deaths
  • Any householder and any person in charge of an institution or premises where the person who died was living

The Garda Síochána will assist the coroner by:

  • Arranging formal identification of the body of the deceased by someone who knew them
  • Providing a report on the circumstances of the death to the coroner
  • Taking statements relating to the death, if necessary

The Gardaí being involved does not mean that the death is being treated as suspicious.

Deaths that must be reported

Many types of death must be reported to the coroner.

Medical conditions and circumstances

Any death must be reported:

  • That is COVID-19 related
  • Where the deceased was not seen by their doctor within one month before their death
  • Caused by a drugs overdose
  • That occurred in a hospital and is related to a surgical operation or anaesthesia
  • Which may be due to a prion disease
  • Where the deceased person is dead on arrival at a hospital
  • Where concern has been expressed about the deceased person’s medical treatment

Criminal and suspicious circumstances

Any death must be reported:

  • That may be murder, manslaughter, suicide or infanticide
  • That is connected with a suspected crime
  • That happens in, or immediately after a person leaves, state custody

Circumstances where certain details are unclear

Any death must be reported:

  • Where the date of death is uncertain or may have occurred a long time ago
  • Where the deceased person is unidentified
  • Where no family member of the deceased person can be found

Circumstances where a person dies in care

Any death must be reported:

  • Which is a maternal or infant death
  • That happens in an institution for the care of people with a physical or mental disability
  • That happens in a nursing home
  • Of a child in care

Circumstances where an accident has occurred

Any death must be reported:

  • Which is caused by an accident with a vehicle, train, aircraft or ship
  • Caused fully or partly by an accident at work

This is not a complete list of circumstances. You can read more information about deaths that must be reported on

Registering the death

If a medical certificate of the cause of death is not available to register the death, the coroner will arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body.

If the post-mortem shows that death was due to natural causes, and there is no need for an inquest, a Coroner's Certificate is issued to the Registrar of Births and Deaths who then registers the death and issues the death certificate.

If an inquest is necessary, the death will be registered by means of a Coroner's Certificate when the inquest is finished (or if it is adjourned).

Before the inquest or while waiting for the post-mortem report, the coroner's office can provide an Interim Certificate of the Fact of Death, which may be acceptable to banks, insurance companies and other institutions.

Further information

You can find contact information for your local coroner. You can read more about the Coroner Service on

Page edited: 14 March 2024