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Is féidir linn: Family win right to Irish inscription on mum’s English gravestone

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Family of Margaret Keane, above, who died in 2018, have won their fight to have on her gravestone the Irish phrase “In ar gcroithe go deo”, which translates as “in our hearts forever”

Family of Margaret Keane, above, who died in 2018, have won their fight to have on her gravestone the Irish phrase “In ar gcroithe go deo”, which translates as “in our hearts forever”

Family of Margaret Keane, above, who died in 2018, have won their fight to have on her gravestone the Irish phrase “In ar gcroithe go deo”, which translates as “in our hearts forever”

A family in Britain is celebrating victory in the battle to have an Irish-language inscription on their mother’s headstone.

The Keanes, from Coventry, had been blocked from putting the phrase "in ár gcroíthe go deo” on Margaret Keane’s grave without its English translation of “in our hearts forever".

But in an unexpectedly quick decision, an ecclesiastical appeals court has overturned the original ruling. This means the stone, along with its Irish epitaph, might be raised in time for St Patrick’s Day.

“We’ll be straight on to the stonemason,” her daughter Bez Martin said.

“Hopefully the gods will be on our side and it can go up quickly because we’ve waited too long to do this for our mother.

"We’d love it to be up by St Patrick’s Day in honour of her heritage.”

She said her father wept when he heard the news after watching proceedings online from home and he told his family: “That’s for your mum.”

At the end of the day-long proceedings in London, the panel of three judges said they were ready to announce their judgment, although the details underpinning their decision-making would be provided at a future date.

The court agreed to an Irish-only inscription, but stipulated that a translation should be held in formal records at St Giles’ church in Coventry, to which the family agreed.

“It was an act of kindness on the part of the judges to let us know at once,” said Ms Martin, who was present in court with her sister Caroline.

"We’re very grateful that they shared their decision so quickly. That’s a total blessing.

"I’m emotional. It’s been a long, long journey for us.”

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The case was fought for almost three years and culminated in a rare sitting for the Court of Arches, the Church of England appeals court.

Dubliner Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, for the Keanes, told the court: “Margaret was a lady who was modest and unassuming, and were she here today she would probably be embarrassed at being the centre of attention.

“’Irish heart, Coventry home’ is a phrase which in many ways encapsulates Margaret Keane.

"She was a proud Irish woman who emigrated to England from Co Meath in the 1950s, one of many Irish people who made that journey at that time.”

The wording the family wanted on her headstone reflected Margaret’s life, the barrister said.

Although Margaret, a school dinner lady, died in 2018 at the age of 73, her grave at St Giles was still marked only by a small wooden cross, she said.

The lack of a headstone was a matter of “substantial distress” for Bernard Keane, said Ms Gallagher.

The court was told Margaret had made it clear she wanted to be buried locally, within minutes of her family’s homes, and her husband, originally from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, intended to be buried with her.

In an initial ruling turning down the inscription, Judge Stephen Eyre had said: “Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement.”

The family felt Irish was being singled out as Welsh, Hebrew and Latin inscriptions could be seen elsewhere without English translations.


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