The Health Service Executive has said it would 'very much' welcome a change to the law which would 'facilitate' it in handing over confidential information about the deaths of children in State care.

The files are wanted by the Independent Review Group set up by Minister for Children Barry Andrews to investigate the deaths of children.

HSE Local Health Manager Bernard Gloster, who was recently assigned to the compilation of figures regarding child deaths, said the HSE wanted 'nothing more' than to be 'fully co-operative' with the group.

However, Mr Gloster said there were significant legislative hurdles at present.

Mr Gloster also moved to clarify the figures released last Friday.

The HSE revealed that a total of 37 children died in State care in the last ten years, 18 of those from 'unnatural causes'.

Mr Gloster said this was a 'strictly defined list' of children who were in the care of the State (as set out by the provisions of the Childcare Act 1991) at the time of their deaths.

A further list is expected to be released next Friday, in line with Health Information and Quality Authority guidelines, which will include the deaths of children who were not in care at the time but who had come into 'substantial' contact with the HSE.

He said he was not prepared to speculate on what that figure will be at this stage.