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Sunday 31 August 2014

Grieving families cut removal day to save on funeral bill

Nick Bramhill

Published 14/08/2011 | 05:00

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A BID to cut funeral costs and a lack of priests has led to grieving families abandoning the traditional Irish 'removal'.

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Funeral directors have noted a major decline in the centuries-old ritual of removals taking place on the day before a loved one is buried.

Some undertakers say as many as four-in-five removals are now being organised on the same day as a funeral to save costs -- a sharp drop from 10 years ago when just 20 per cent of removals were combined with a funeral service.

Keith Massey, who runs Rom Massey & Sons, a Dublin-based firm of funeral directors, said families were saving up to €1,000 by sacrificing the age-old ritual of traditional removals.

"Ten years ago, I'd say one-in-five removals took place on the same day as a funeral, but four-in-five now are combined, one-day services. People are looking to make savings and many can no longer afford to hire a hearse and limousine twice.

"They're definitely in the minority now and will only continue to decline from now on.

"But it's a very tough sacrifice for families to have to make. Removals are an essential part of the funeral process and tend to be more personal than the actual funeral service and help with the grieving process, because it means everything is spaced out and not squeezed into a couple of hours," Mr Massey said.

"Also, a traditional removal gives mourners two chances to attend and pay their respects. It's not always possible for people who have other commitments to make a funeral."

The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has also noted a decline in the number of removals taking place across the country.

But the association's spokesman, Gus Nicholls, insisted the trend was not solely due to financial reasons.

"There are fewer priests around to conduct services. In some parishes in Dublin, lay people are now receiving coffins with no priests present, which is a big change," he said.

"But people's attitudes to the church are not what they used to be, so that's also a reason why they are less popular."

Despite the certainty of death, undertakers say they have been hit by the recession more than ever before, with more experiencing cashflow problems because of delays in getting paid.

Undertakers also blame the property crash, as families who need to sell the deceased's estate to settle funeral bills -- which can cost €5,000 on average -- are finding it harder and longer to wind up the estate.

Up to 80 people die each day in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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