Monday 21 January 2019

Councillors split on burial ground policy

Cllr Mary Kavanagh.
Cllr Mary Kavanagh.
Cllr Tommy Cullen.

Myles Buchanan

Some councillors expressed their distaste for lawn-style cemeteries at the most recent meeting of Wicklow County Council.

However, during a review of the Wicklow County Council burial ground policy, other elected members favoured lawn cemeteries over open graveyards as they are generally easier to maintain.

During the meeting, Cllr Tommy Cullen said it was impossible to introduce an all-county burial policy, as certain areas had different needs and traditions to others.

'The burial needs within the Baltinglass district are different to those in Bray or Arklow,' said Cllr Cullen. 'I don't know much about burial practises in Bray or Arklow but in Baltinglass the traditional way is with a headstone. Several people for the past three years have been refused permission to put headstones over the graves. This was SPC policy that was never approved by this council. I propose that each Municipal District's recommendations should be adopted as policy for that particular district.

His proposal was seconded by the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Edward Timmins.

Cllr John Snell said he was totally opposed to lawn cemeteries.

'Rathnew Cemetery dates back to 1905 as an open cemetery. I think one of the most disrespectful things is to have an open cemetery and to then introduce a lawn cemetery where people are walking over graves. When I was growing up, if you stood on someone's grave you got a clip around the ear,' said Cllr Snell.

Cllr Pat Doran said he was completely opposed to the use of footstones rather than headstones.

'I am older than most people and I never heard of anything in my life other than a headstone. If we go by this policy then it will be footstones and surely that is wrong,' he said.

According to Cllr Gerry O'Neill, the elected members of Baltinglass Municipal District had already made their feelings clear.

'We clearly stated we don't want lawn graveyards. Otherwise, we are just causing upset to people in the area. People don't want these lawn cemeteries. People want to be buried in the traditional way, facing the sun and with a headstone,' said Cllr O'Neill.

Cllr Irene Winters said most of the feedback she was getting from the public was opposed to lawn cemeteries.

'People I have spoken to who have someone buried in the lawn cemetery don't feel their loved one got the same opportunities as people buried in the old part,' said Cllr Winters.

Cllr Pat Vance had no issues with lawn cemeteries as old cemeteries can be more difficult to maintain, especially if the relatives of a buried family member pass away or move elsewhere. Lawn cemeteries also prevented people from erecting huge headstones for loved ones 'like he or she was the lord of the place.

Referencing Springfield Cemetery, Cllr Vance said: 'It was a lawn cemetery from day one and 90 per cent of the people buried in Springfield Cemetery complied with the lawn cemetery policy.'

Cllr Daire Nolan regarded lawn cemeteries as a 'very sensible' solution.

'You go to old, open cemeteries and there are some beautiful graves but then you come across some sad cases where the graves have fallen into wrack and ruin. Lawn cemeteries are easier to maintain,' said Cllr Nolan.

Cllr Grainne McLoughlin said she had family members buried in Springfield Cemetery and she couldn't understand how people could regard lawn cemeteries as disrespectful.

Cllr Mary Kavanagh wondered if some sort of spray was being used to kerb growth at Rathnew Cemetery after she noticed the scorched look of some of the grass verges during a recent visit.

'Over the past couple of years we were told that the council were running a biodiversity programme in the cemetery to encourage the growth of wild flowers. However, I was there recently and I was appalled to see in the older section between the graves that the grass was as brown as this table and absolutely decimated. I have no doubt some sort of spray was used and it left the area looking like a post nuclear landscape,' said Cllr Kavanagh.

The burial policy will be placed on the agenda of each district for their June meeting before returning again to the full council.

Bray People