The Health Service Executive has revealed that a total of 37 children died in State care in the last 10 years, 18 of those from 'unnatural causes'.

A further 19 children died from natural causes and health-related conditions.

There had been calls for a full disclosure from the HSE following the death of Dublin teenager Daniel McAnaspie, who was murdered while in the care of the State.

Of the 18 deaths from 'unnatural causes':

  • 5 died from suicide
  • 5 deaths were drug related
  • 2 were unlawful killings
  • 3 died from road accidents
  • 3 died from other accidents

HSE lead local health manager Bernard Gloster said 20 of the 37 children who died were teenagers. He said 17 were 'younger children'.

Mr Gloster could not confirm whether Daniel McAnaspie's death was included in the figures.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the Government was committed to investing more in child protection but that there still was 'a long way to go'.

Two months ago the Government set up a review group to investigate all the deaths of children in care over the past decade.

It is now pushing through emergency legislation to oblige the HSE to hand over documents to that review group.

Figures

HSE Chief Executive Brendan Drumm has said he believes the figure of 37 children is absolutely reliable.

He said the figure rose from 23 because that figure was produced a year ago.

Mr Drumm said the problem collating the figures arose because some regions were counting natural deaths in their overall figure, while others were not.

However, he said HIQA's new definition means that will not be a problem going forward.

The HSE is now putting together a wider list of all children who died while known to HSE services, including premature babies born to young mothers.

Professor Brendan Drumm said that figure 'could be enormous'.

Fine Gael Children Spokesman Alan Shatter has challenged the accuracy of the figures.

'Both the HSE in its statement tonight and Minister John Moloney on 5th March 2009 stated that two children had died from 'assault' or 'unlawful killings'. Daniel McAnaspie whose remains were discovered a week ago could not be included in this number.

'I also believe that Danny Talbot who died in August 2009 at the age of 19 having been in the care system for many years is not included in the number of deaths.

'I am calling on the HSE to clarify the reason for the tragic deaths of both of these young people being omitted from today's published information.'

Minister for Children Barry Andrews said that information in respect of children who die in care must be available in a timely fashion in the future.

He said the overall discrepancy between the figures (23 and 37) reported raises serious questions about the management of information in the HSE in an extremely sensitive area.

He said he will be requiring both an explanation and assurances from the Board and Senior Management in the HSE.