Monday 21 January 2019

'Horrendous' St Gabriel's

St Gabriel's graveyard
St Gabriel's graveyard

Esther Hayden

St Gabriel's graveyard is in a dreadful state - with grass growing as high as hay.

Speaking at last Wednesday's meeting of Arklow Municipal District Cllr Mary McDonald said the graveyard is in a deplorable state.

'I don't think anyone is under illusion that the maintenance of the graveyard is anywhere near it should be. The full time caretaker retired a couple of months ago.

'I was told that the funding for the graveyard comes from the municipal allocation and we allocated an extra €10,000 last year. Is there still funding to pay a caretaker or has that been absorbed into the general outdoor staff?

'We are coming up to the Blessing of the Graves and it's in a terrible state. There's a push on now to clean the graveyard but more work needs to be done on a regular basis.

'It's absolutely horrendous there. Even the graves that are being looked after by loved ones are in a bad state because they can't get at them. It's just not acceptable.'

She was backed by Cllr Pat Fitzgerald who said that Cllr McDonald had been raising this issue since 2016. He noted there had been a difficult start to the year weather wise but said 'things were let slide. The caretaker was always doing a bit'.

'Now given the condition it is in people are getting very tense. The blessing of the graves is on July 7 which is really only about ten working days and with storms due it will be very difficult to have the graveyard ready by then.

'The old section of the graveyard is like hay and when this is cut it will have to be taken up. Opposite the Gaelscoil it is fairly well under control but the old section is dire. There's hay around there.

'There has been recent burials over there and it looks shocking. It will be a huge job to have the graveyard ready. There's other areas of the town that aren't getting cut either.

'Unless there's a Trojan effort we are in trouble. There's no a doubt about it.'

Cllr Syl Bourke wondered about getting Jennifer Kavanagh and her Tus workers from Kilbride to help out.

'I think we might need help,' agreed Cllr Fitzgerald.

District engineer Brendan Doyle said the council has a body of work to do each year and said that some of this could be done with mowers and tractors.

He said that 'in an effort to address the more manual and labour intensive areas we have purchased another strimmer which works as two machines and we are trying to get insurance for a contractor to work with us as well.

'We are reviewing things on a daily basis and I have been assured that the graveyard will be ready. Grass cutting is very seasonal work.'

Cllr Pat Kennedy said that the graveyards in areas such as Rathdrum and Greenane also needed tending too and Mr Doyle said the council will also be looking at these.

District manager Michael Geaney said that the job of caretaker at St Gabriel's will be absorbed into the outdoor staff but said the graveyard would form part of the job requirement.

Cllr Miriam Murphy said that two days a week needed to be devoted to the graveyard. 'At least two,' said Cllr McDonald.

Cllr Murphy said: 'It's very important. Every year it's the same story.'

Cllr Tommy Annesley wondered what was the position with insurance if volunteers set about cleaning the graveyard saying there were a group of people who were interested in forming a Friends of St Gabriel's Cemetery group and keeping it tidy.

Cllr Fitzgerald said there were people doing work up there to try clean up the graveyard but said the old section had been 'let go out of control. There's 3 and 4 feet of hay there in areas.'

However he said he accepted the assurances of Mr Doyle about the graveyard being ready on time.

Mr Geaney said it was his intention 'to get it (the graveyard) looking well and keep it looking well'.

Wicklow People