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'Killjoy' council under fire over ban on musical graveside send-offs

Mayo County Council has been branded a bunch of killjoys over proposed new byelaws that could prohibit mourners from giving their nearest and dearest a musical graveside send-off.

Under strict new byelaws, mourners will have to obtain special written permission if they want a lone piper, or to use a stereo, to play the deceased's favourite piece of music at the graveside.

"No person shall operate any sound-reproducing equipment or play any musical instrument in a cemetery without the prior consent of the council" is the wording of a proposed new byelaw for the county.

Mourners who flout the byelaw could be ejected from the graveyard for disturbing the peace.

Musical send-offs are quite a common fixture at Irish funerals and have grown in popularity due to the Catholic Church laying down the law and prohibiting inappropriate music being played inside churches.

Popular secular funeral songs include Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' and The Beatles' 'Blackbird', as well as traditional Irish ballads.

But now these songs have been largely banned, with church authorities insisting upon traditional scriptural-based church music instead. As a result mourners have taken their musical eulogies outdoors.

"The new proposed byelaws are unfair to grieving mourners," said Independent Councillor Richard Finn, who is a member of Mayo County Council's Special Policy Committee on the Environment. "To have to go to the council to ask whether we can play the flute at the graveyard is a new low for us. I'm sure that no elected representative will vote for this."

Mr Finn's views were echoed by fellow Independent Mayo County Council member Michael Kilcoyne.

"Lots of burials have music played at them," he said. "The byelaw is unworkable due to council opening hours and holidays. What if someone died on Holy Thursday? Who are you going to get permission from then if there is no one in the council office?"

Traditional Westport-based uilleann piper Maurice Barr, who regularly plays at funerals in Mayo, was aghast at the idea of being barred from graveyards.

"They are total killjoys," he said. "It is red tape gone mad. Who is making an issue of this and why are they even discussing it?

"I have played at over half-a-dozen funerals in recent years and there was never any problem or objection from anyone.

"What will the council propose next: that mourners will need their own public-liability insurance before they can attend a funeral, and an appropriate health and safety permit to boot?"

Sunday Independent