Home » Breaking News » Call to change ‘archaic’ burial laws
Fanore graveyard. Photograph by John Kelly

Call to change ‘archaic’ burial laws


Clare councillors have called for a comprehensive framework to regulate burials, exhumations, and burial grounds at Clare burial sites, and are asking the Minister for Rural and Community Development to update the outdated legislation that governs burial grounds.
Councillors Pat Hayes (FF), Mary Howard (FG), Cillian Murphy (FF), Pat Burke (FG), Shane Talty (FF), Joe Killeen (FF) tabled a joint motion at the March meeting of Clare County Council requesting the local authority to ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG) to update the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878 and the associated rules and regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds Act, 1888 to provide a comprehensive framework to regulate burials, exhumations, and burial grounds.
“A recent review of burial ground management in Clare referenced the need for updated and consolidated national legislation to support the oversight and management function of this essential service at local level to bring it in line with current burial ground practices, regulation, enforcement, and health and safety requirements,” they said.
Bringing forward the motion, Killaloe councillor Pat Hayes said: “The 1878 Act needs to be brought up to modern standard. Clare County Council is hindered by an archaic and old law, and it is very hard to believe that it is still under the laws of 1878 and we cannot upgrade our burial grounds. Modern burial grounds have to deal with cremation etc. things like that.” He also said as regulations are not being brought up to modern standard, they were hindered, and needed to move forward.
Councillor Mary Howard said that back in 2014, the county development plan had to be changed to facilitate cremations, and she said it was important the legislation was updated. She said the lack of regulation is causing distress for families, recalling the story of an American couple, Delia Garcia-Stokes and Kelly Stokes whose baby son Nicholas died when he was born prematurely as they visited the Cliffs of Moher in 2006, and they couldn’t have their son’s remains cremated in Clare at the time.
Describing cremation as “the way of the future”, Councillor Howard referenced the example of Germany where if a relative is not found after a 40-year period, then local authorities can bury over on the plot. Ennis councillor Clare Colleran Molloy said she was happy to co-sign the motion and North Clare’s Councillor Joe Killeen said he was also supporting it.
The laws that currently regulate Irish burials were introduced in 1888 and have only twice received minor amendments relating to coffin type and depth in 1929 and 2013.
While there are more than 200 recorded burial grounds in Clare, capacity issues have been an ongoing issue throughout the county with new graveyard space having been sought for Clonlara and Crusheen villages as well as Drumcliffe Cemetery in Ennis.
The motion comes as new legislation passes through the houses of the Oireachtas at national level. If enacted into law, it is hoped the Historic and Agricultural Heritage Bill of 2023 will give much broader powers to burial ground employees at local cemeteries.
Clare County Council has confirmed a review process is currently being conducted to assess whether its current burial ground bye-laws need to be amended ahead of changes to the national act.
However, members of the county’s rural development strategic development committee were told at a meeting in late February the existing bye-laws are comprehensive and robust.

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

About Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

Check Also

Queen of the butterfly wars

Multitalented Clare vocalist, musician and composer, Lou McMahon, has just released Mysteria, the first single …