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‘It’s really shocking that our loved ones’ graves are left in this condition’ – complaints about ‘jungle-like’ cemetery in Deansgrange


Image of weeds in graveyard. Photo @rteliveline

Image of weeds in graveyard. Photo @rteliveline

Image of weeds in graveyard. Photo @rteliveline

A woman has complained of facing a “jungle” like graveyard, with weeds at hip height, restricting her and loved ones from visiting her mother’s plot.

Jennifer Reilly has highlighted weed problems at Deansgrange cemetery in south Dublin, which has left her concerned about how she’s going to visit her mother’s grave next week to mark her birthday.

Jennifer said she and her family have to “go off the path” to visit her mother’s plot but she couldn’t make it to the grave due to the sheer size and number of weeds surrounding it.

“It was very overgrown with weeds, it was impossible to get into where her graveside is,” Jennifer told RTÉ’s Liveline.

“As it was, we have to step over graves, it’s in the older section (of the graveyard) - you have to step over some graves and some are sunken, as they’re quite old.

“The weeds are way past my knee level, I couldn’t find a pathway in and I couldn’t find a way in.”

Broadcaster Katie Hannon, who’s standing in for Joe Duffy, commented on the photographs Jennifer sent to RTÉ of the graveyard and commented “it looks like a jungle, some (weeds) look hip height.”

Jennifer agreed and added that as she walked down a long pathway, she could actually see “the weeds getting higher and higher, overtaking any grave possible.”

“It was growing, taking over everything,” she added. “It's in the older section, I took a walk back down going to the car and behind the office, there's no weeds.

“The grass was manicured but it seems like the older section of the graveyard has been left to go a bit derelict.”

Jennifer’s mother has been buried in Deansgrange for the past 27 years. “It’s her birthday next week and her anniversary in the middle of July.

“We go regularly to plant seasonal flowers… to take care of it (the grave) - it's been maintained over the years,” she said.

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But she felt saddened to see the grave had been left “in that state”. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it like this.”

“It was like walking into a jungle yesterday. I had to look where the stone was, I was thinking how do I get in here.”

She said she was concerned about elderly people visiting the graves in case they fall and “bang their head.”

“If they were to fall down, you wouldn’t see them…” She said the family would not be visiting the grave until it’s cleared and if they had to, they would do this themselves.”

Another caller to the show, Teresa also said she’d been taken aback visiting Deansgrange.

“You’d be hard pushed to find a grave you're looking for,” she said. “To get to the grave (of a family member), I had to walk over other graves because the footbaths are broken, there’s ivy, and sunken graves - it’s really shocking our relatives and loved ones (graves) are left in this condition.

“There’s 150,000 people buried there, over 750 children,” she said. “It’s dangerous and upsetting.”

Teresa said she had heard that there was to be a ‘friends of Deansgrange cemetery’ group that was to be set up but had not seen any movement on this.

She also claimed she knew of an older woman who could no longer look after her loved one’s grave, so had been paying a €89 fee for ‘perpetual care’ - a way of having the council maintain a grave.

In a statement, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said: “The Horsetail plant is a cause of concern for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in Deansgrange Cemetery. This fast growing and invasive species is growing rapidly in many areas of the cemetery and in and around graves.

“Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council acknowledges the significant distress caused to family members of those interred in Deansgrange Cemetery where Horsetail is growing around their graves. The Council is committed to doing its utmost to manage this invasive plant and negate any further impact on the cemetery and the families grave.”

The council said horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a native plant to Ireland but is also an extremely invasive plant.

“It is an very difficult plant to treat or eradicate completely from an area,” DLRCC said.

"There are many different solutions proposed from various sources on how to eradicate this plant, all with very limited success.”

The council said it had been managing horsetail at the cemetery over 35 years with a variety of options being trialled. 

It said removing it by hand was difficult as deeper roots which can extend to 1m down need a lot of excavation and shallow occasional weeding was not effective and can actually make it worse, as the plant can regrow from any small pieces left behind.

Cutting back only lasts for a few weeks, while weedkiller only has limited effectiveness, the council said.

The council said it would continue to examine ways to treat horsetail, including chemical control where appropriate and sustainable, planting other more vigorous plants to compete with it, controlling young plants as they develop, and avoiding disturbing soil.

It said it was also working with universities to come up with new solutions.

By using a combination of treatments DLR are endeavouring to halt the spread of the plant – widely known to be very difficult to manage - and to trial new ways of treating it,” the council added.

This article was updated on June 25, 2021

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