Without a doubt the most significant development in Body Identification in Ireland occurred in November 2015 with the commencement of the National DNA Database. The Identification Division of the DNA Database can now be used as a repository of DNA profiles from unidentified remains, missing persons (DNA from clothing or personal belongings) and relatives of missing persons. Parents, children or siblings of a missing person can submit DNA samples to FSI through An Garda Síochána for uploading onto our database. As profiles are generated from unidentified remains they will be routinely checked against these family samples in the hope of finding a match and establishing an identification.
As part of International Police cooperation, FSI can also use Interpol to enable the searching of DNA profiles with our European neighbours. This has further enhanced our potential to compare the profiles from unidentified remains with databases in the UK and beyond.
What will happen when you have been asked to give a DNA sample?
A clean sponge on a stick will be used to rub the inside of your mouth. Both cheeks will be rubbed to get cheek skin onto the sponge. This is not painful and is just like having your cheeks brushed instead of your teeth. The material on the sponge is then pressed against an absorbent card and the biological material from the cheek is transferred to this card for analysis back in the laboratory.
What happens to your DNA?
The Forensic Scientist extracts DNA from the card and a DNA profile is generated. This profile is then uploaded onto the Identification Division of the DNA Database. A different computer has your name and personal data associated with your DNA profile. Your DNA sample will not be kept, it will be destroyed at a time after the DNA profile has been placed on the computer. The DNA profile will be kept on the computer until the scientists are told by the Gardaí to remove it.
The computer with the DNA profile will compare your DNA profile with other DNA profiles kept there and see if there are any that match. If there is no match nothing will happen and your profile will be kept on the system for future comparisons. If there is a match then the Gardaí will be told and your profile will be removed.
Sometimes you may be asked to give a sample more than once. This could be because the scientists were unable to get a DNA profile from the previous sample and they may need to try again.