Apr 2, 2024 | Featured Articles

A new €100m laboratory and headquarters for Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), which was officially opened in March has been described by FSI Director General Chris Enright as “the most advanced in Europe”.


According to Chris Enright, “This new purpose-built facility represents a deep commitment to the impact and value of forensic science in the country. It acknowledges the profound impact forensic science has on supporting a functioning society – from supporting criminal investigations, to assisting with missing persons’ investigations and body identifications, to identifying new and potentially dangerous psychoactive substances or providing valuable intelligence information through DNA and Fingerprint Databases.


“The demand for our services has grown dramatically over the years and this new building positions us very well to respond. The building also allows us to provide a more integrated forensic service, where all of our Chemical Analysis, DNA & Biological Analysis and Physical Analysis services can be provided from the same location in an integrated and cohesive way.


“Our mission is to provide the Irish justice system with a high quality integrated Forensic Service through independent, expert scientific analysis and advice to best international standards. I have no doubt that this major capital investment will enable this and will provide for a great future for forensic services in Ireland.”


Official opening of FSI lab and HQ

The new laboratory was officially opened on 21 March by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister of State with responsibility for law reform James Browne and Minister of State at the OPW Patrick O’Donovan.


The Justice Minister said that it will allow FSI to expand, to meet growing future demands and to continue to support and enable An Garda Síochána to secure successful prosecution in thousands of cases per year.


“This new facility futureproofs forensic science in Ireland. FSI is already the unsung hero of our criminal justice system. This development will allow it take full advantage of exciting DNA and other technologies to support criminal investigations.


“Recent advances in forensic science, which could only be dreamed of almost 50 years ago when the Forensic Science Laboratory was first established, are having an enormous impact on the criminal justice system’s ability to deliver justice and deter crime.”


Referring to the investment involved, Minister McEntee continued: “This is the largest ever capital project directly funded by the Exchequer in the justice sector, at just over €100m. That is reflective of the crucial role the FSI plays in our criminal justice system and is a practical demonstration of the Government’s commitment to building stronger, safer communities.”


The new 13,000m² facility is based at the Backweston Campus, Celbridge in Co. Kildare, alongside the laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the State Laboratory.


Purpose-built and designed to the latest ISO (International Standards Organisation) standards, it provides state-of-the-art facilities for the recovery and analysis of trace evidence as well as FSI’s broad range of functions including chemical analysis, physical analysis and DNA & Biological Analysis services. It will help FSI take full advantage of evolving DNA and other technologies in criminal investigations and support of Missing Person investigations.


The construction of this new, fit-for-purpose building at the Backweston Campus started in March 2020 and was completed in July 2023. The State Laboratory and offices, and the laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are based on the same campus. The construction of a new Government Data Centre on campus is also underway.


Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne TD said that the major investment reflects the crucial role played by the FSI in ensuring justice is served in the most serious of criminal cases.


“This new headquarters for FSI will be a critical part of the infrastructure to fight crime, keep people safe and build stronger communities, allowing FSI to take full advantage of evolving DNA and other technologies in criminal investigations and missing person investigations,” he added.


Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD said that the biggest single investment in forensic science in is an investment in Ireland’s future and an acknowledgement of the ever-increasing relevance of forensic services in our justice system. We now have one of the elite forensic analysis facilities in Europe, designed and delivered by the OPW team”.


Forensic Science Ireland is an associated office of the Department of Justice and have been based in the Technical Bureau Building of Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park since 1975. FSI delivers comprehensive scientific analysis, independent expert opinion, advice and training to support the Irish Criminal Justice system.


Originally known as the Forensic Science Laboratory, FSI was established in 1975 to provide a scientific service to the Criminal Justice System by analysing samples submitted from crime scenes and providing expert evidence in criminal trials.


FSI currently employs 210 staff, including seconded Garda members, scientists and analysts trained in forensic testing and reporting techniques, supported by ICT and administration professionals. The new facility will include 13,000m2 of laboratory, office, collaboration, storage and support workspaces across three floors, compared with approx. 4,000m2 in its previous accommodation at Garda HQ.


It includes additional lab, office and collaboration workspaces across three floors, along with 32 specialised ISO clean rooms, designed to the latest international design standards for the recovery, processing and analysis of trace evidence as well as a broad range of laboratories for all of FSI’s Chemical Analysis, Physical Analysis and DNA services.

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