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Call for cemeteries to be more inclusive to other faiths

BURIAL grounds across Clare must be more inclusive of people of all faiths and religious beliefs, the council’s rural committee has been told.
At a meeting of the Rural Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) this week, Anny Wise, a member of the Baha’i faith outlined her own family’s experience of the regulations.
She said the existing bye-laws had resulted in items being repeatedly removed from the grave of her baby grandson.
The family was eventually told by a local undertaker that their preference for a boundary around the burial plot was contrary to the rules on lawn cemeteries, where kerbing and surrounds are not allowed.
Ms Wise’s comments followed the presentation of a review of the operation of burial grounds in Clare and led to an assurance from the rural directorate that the council’s policies are fully inclusive of all faiths and none.
Ms Wise, who represents the environmental and conservation sectors on the SPC, was among the many members to endorse a full review of the burial bye-laws which date to 2015.
“I have a particular interest in burials for those that aren’t Christian,” she said, “and I’ve raised the issue on behalf of Syrians in Shannon because the bye-laws are stopping religions having their style of burial site.”
Ms Wise outlined how a family tragedy had given her a personal insight into the situation.
“I had a grandson who was a cot death,” she said. “He was buried in Ballycannon and had a Baha’i funeral and burial. That was nearly 20 years ago.
“We put a frame around his grave, first of all a metal one. It was destroyed. We then put a wooden one and that was taken away. We put plants on the grave and they disappeared.”
The environmental representative said that the family eventually went to a local undertaker who explained that at lawn cemeteries, such as the one at Ballycannon, graves are not permitted to have kerbing or surrounds.
“Bahai graves don’t have a headstone,” Ms Wise outlined. “They have a surround with a flat part with details of the person.
“Your bye-laws do not take account of the diverse number of people that come into Clare, people with other religions.
“Now we know we are breaking the bye-laws, I would like to see them have a part [in cemeteries] that allows people of other religions to be buried in their own style. The Baha’is and Muslims will take on the maintenance.”
Chairperson of the SPC, Councillor Pat Hayes sympathised with Ms Wise on the family’s loss and said he believed a review of the bye-laws is on the horizon.
Councillor Mary Howard also extended her sympathies. She noted that she had engaged at an early stage with the council and Gardai over issues in Drumcliff Cemetery in Ennis.
“Most issues have now been addressed and things have quietened down in relation to anti-social behaviour and items being taken from graves,” she said.
“The new columbarium area is very welcome. In Drumcliff, there is a Muslim section and some Baha’i burials. I find it very hard to understand that someone would come in and damage things. I can’t understand that mentality.”
Director of Services Leonard Cleary noted that, on foot of the review carried out by Ollie O’Loughlin, members of SPC can now opt to recommend a review of bye-laws by Clare County Council.
In respect of burials for those of different faiths, Mr Cleary said the council’s policy is to be inclusive.
“We have in place at this stage a dedicated Muslim faith plot [in Drumcliff] and that is operating quite well, we get good feedback,” he said.
“Burial grounds are there for those of all faiths and none. We live in a pluralist society. We have a Christian tradition, but we must make provision for all faiths and none.
“We have facilitated the burial of a number of persons of the Baha’i faith and the commitment is there to make things work.
“If there are examples of removal of items, we are happy to engage directly with families to try to facilitate. We want to be inclusive of all families and all traditions.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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