Ireland is the only EU member state which has failed to submit excess mortality figures from 2020 to the EU’s official statistic body, Eurostat.

In place of any monthly data, the row for Ireland simply includes a series of colons, which stands for “not available” according to the key provided.

According to Eurostat, the data was acquired by them weekly, and was handed over on a voluntary basis by member states.

“The excess mortality indicator is based on currently available weekly deaths data transmitted to Eurostat by Member States on a voluntary basis,” Eurostat told Gript.

“The issue with data from Ireland is technical/legal and it is linked to a national rule allowing for a three-month period for death registration, which makes it hard to have timely figures, comparable with those arriving weekly from other countries.

“We follow this very carefully and we are in contact with CSO Ireland for including their mortality data in our dissemination database. Unfortunately, we cannot give you any precise date, as this is also linked to a possible review of statistical practices which goes beyond our influence.”

However, the period covered in the data – January 2020 to January 2021 – is already more than three months ago, and there has been no update on these figures to date, while every other country in the EU has submitted theirs.

There has reportedly been a very slow registration of deaths over the past year, ostensibly due to covid-19 disruptions – although one would have to ask why this did not seem to significantly impede any of our European neighbours from supplying weekly information.

According to a government spokesperson speaking to TheJournal.ie, “deaths registered with the General Registration Office up to that point “do not represent the number of deaths which have actually occurred.”

Reportedly, in an ordinary year, around 80% of deaths are registered within 3 months of the death, with 20% taking even longer. Due to covid-19, these delays are even longer again.

Over the past year, the CSO has been estimating excess mortality using the website RIP.ie – a private obituary site dedicated to publishing death notices in Ireland. As stated by CSO statistician John Flanagan:

“Since the end of March 2020, the CSO has been using the website RIP.ie to keep track of death notices. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we began to explore experimental ways of obtaining up-to-date mortality data.”

Additionally, the Health and Information Quality Authority (HIQA) also used RIP.ie as its source.

To date, authorities like HIQA have issued estimates of around 1,100 to 1,200 excess deaths in 2020 than they would expect in a normal year – a 13% increase. However, they note that this is “substantially less than the reported 1,709 COVID-19-related deaths over the same period.”

“HIQA found that the officially-reported COVID-19 deaths likely overestimates the true burden of excess deaths caused by the virus. This could be due to the inclusion within official figures of people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) at the time of death whose cause of death may have been predominantly due to other factors.”