Two temporary morgues were set up in early Covid-19 pandemic response

Facilities were set up at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick and Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Former Defence Forces chief-of-staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett: early projections on Covid-19 mortalities were ‘quite frightening’. Photograph: Alan Betson

Two temporary morgues were operated by the State’s emergency response team for several weeks in the early stages of the pandemic in anticipation of a surge in Covid-19 deaths.

The morgues were based at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick and at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin during the first wave of the pandemic between March and June 2020, according to information released by the Defence Forces under the Freedom of Information Act.

Neither morgue was ultimately required or used as the first lockdown, running from March to May 2020, suppressed the spread of the virus.

Hospital Report

There were 129 Covid-19 deaths in March 2020, 1,160 in April, 363 in May and 67 in June, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.


The facilities were set up in response to early modelling projections which estimated, in a worst-case scenario with no public measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, that almost two million people could contract the virus and between 25,000 and 35,000 people could die.

While the Limerick morgue was at a Defence Forces location from March 29th until June 3rd, 2020, the army said that it had no role in its operation. For 35 days from April 14th, two members of the Defence Forces were assigned to the Kilmainham facility at an average cost of €250 a day.

The Defence Forces' chief of staff at the time of the first wave, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, previously told The Irish Times that the early projections on Covid-19 mortalities were "quite frightening in the context of our morgues and hospitals being overwhelmed".

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times