CLARE County Council has decided to appoint a part-time caretaker for one of the smallest graveyards in South-East Clare, in a bid to resolve the impasse over out-of-hours access.
While pedestrians can access a pathway leading to the Kilquane Cemetery near Parteen via a stile, people with disabilities and the elderly cannot drive up close to the entrance, unless the locked gate at the roadside is opened.
In the latest development to the saga, which started almost four years ago, the council has decided the new caretaker will be a key holder. The caretaker’s mobile number will be displayed at the entrance to the graveyard and on the council website, with a list of other caretakers’ contacts.
By appointment only, this will facilitate people who wish to visit their loved one’s grave and require vehicular access. Pedestrian access will continue. The council will be utilising the appropriate panel for caretakers, having regard to the competitive process.
Rural development director Leonard Cleary, who advised councillors of the new arrangement in a letter, said the landowner has been advised accordingly and is agreeable to provide the key to the council. Mr Cleary said the matter will remain under review.
A spokesman for the Kilquane Graveyard Committee told The Clare Champion that the group did not have an opportunity to discuss the latest proposal.
The difficulty accessing Kilquane Graveyard began in July 2013, when the privately-owned land between the graveyard and public road changed ownership. The previous landowner, similar to those before him, had allowed people to access the graveyard through his land by entering through a permanently closed, but unlocked, gate.
The company office of the landowner was contacted to allow him to make a comment on Wednesday afternoon, which was not taken up at the time of going to press.
The committee has been conducting a long-running campaign to improve the out-of-hours access to the cemetery, without any success.This included making a submission to Clare County Council’s draft bylaws in a bid to improve access to the graveyard.
While this issue has been discussed at a number of Shannon Municipal District meetings, Councillor Cathal Crowe confirmed the introduction of a caretaker was not discussed or approved by councillors at any recent meetings.
Councillor Crowe said initially he believed that overall this proposal was a positive development but now feels it only helps to eliminate the unsatisfactory practice of having to sign a register in a local factory to gain vehicular access to the graveyard.
The Fianna Fáil councillor called on the council to put the appointment of the caretaker on hold to facilitate discussions with the local graveyard committee.
He said the provision of a caretaker is a cumbersome and highly-costly measure to resolve what should be a relatively small problem and suggested that other alternatives, such as the provision of a spring-loaded gate, or a double gate with a holding area to facilitate the closing of one gate before another is opened, could have been introduced. A third option, he said, would be the provision of new fencing to ensure cattle didn’t stray out accidentally onto the public road.He wondered would the caretaker be available to open the gate late in the evenings, at weekends and during holiday periods such as Christmas Day?
Councillor PJ Ryan acknowledged that the latest proposal may not be the best acceptable solution but it was the best available solution to the current impasse. Councillor Ryan said the landowner has the right to accept or reject any proposal concerning access to the graveyard involving passage through his land.