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Councillor Alan O'Callaghan: "It struck me that a lot of ground could be wasted and that all this lady wanted was a place to bury the urn.”

Council look at options for cremated remains in Clare


FACILITIES for housing cremated remains are to be developed at cemeteries across Clare, in response to rising demand and changing funeral practices. 

The matter was discussed at the monthly meeting of Clare County Council on foot of a motion from Councillor Alan O’Callaghan who called on the authority to look at installing columbarium walls and other options for urns.

The Kilmurry man said he had recently met a lady who inquired about a grave to bury an urn.

“It struck me that a lot of ground could be wasted and that all this lady wanted was a place to bury the urn,” he said.

“There has been a huge jump since 2016 in cremations and 212 people are cremated in Clare every year. That figure will definitely increase and burial ground at a premium. We need to open a discussion and look at having columbarium walls in graveyards. As it stands, some areas dont meet bye-laws for full burial, but maybe they could meet criteria for burial of urns. One hat wont fit every graveyard, but it is time now to open up the discussion.”

The motion was seconded by Councillor Gerry Flynn, who said he had tabled a motion some years ago to ensure columbarium walls could be installed in all graveyards. 

Councillor Donna McGettigan said she too was fully supportive. “When you cremate, you need a focal point. If you dont have that you dont feel the grief,” she said. 

Councillor Mary Howard noted that a columbarium wall recently developed at Ennis Cathedral is now fully booked. “It shows how people have embraced cremation,” she said. “Each graveyard will need to have these. This is a great motion. It’s very timely and appropriate.”

Councillor John Crowe noted that some years ago, there was uproar at the idea of having a crematorium in the county.  “There was nearly World War Two over looking for a centre in Shannon,” he said. “Many graveyards are now near capacity and that will be a major problem. Things have changed a lot.”

Full support also came from Councillors PJ Kelly and Councillor Johnny Flynn. 

“It will be very important to review our policy,” Councillor Flynn said. “People have a big desire to trace roots and come to graveyards in Ireland to do that. We now have a number of people availing of cremation and each public graveyard should have a wall. There was a very good debate when Gerry Flynn raised the issue a number of years ago.”

The demand for spaces in the “The wall in Ennis was also cited by Councillor Pat Daly. “It sold out in a couple of days,” he said. I believe the ratio of cremations to burials will be 80:20 down the road.”

Councillor Pat McMahon noted that people are privately burying ashes following blessing ceremonies. “I can well understand why people do that,” he said. “This motion would regularise the situation.” 

In respect of the issue of space in exiting graveyards, Councillor Joe Garrihy said a very serious discussion needs to be had. “This is one of the components,” he said. “It’s a great motion.” 

Councillor Ann Norton noted that things are changing and that people need choice. “This is something we need to start talking about,” she said. 

Councillor Michael Begley agreed that providing options is key. “I’m not sure everyone who is cremated wants to be part of a monument,” he cautioned. “Some may want to be in a family grave. or a two-by-two. There could be a designated area in graveyard and people should have 

choices.”

Director of Rural Services, Leonard Cleary said the motion was “timely and appropriate”.

“This is a very sensitive subject,” he said. “In the last year, we had a review of all graveyards and how the burial service is operated. Some communities have a lack of space. Some communities have extended with support of the Council. Many families choose to bury ashes in a grave. Some like to retain at home for a number of years. Others want walls. Some NGOs and communities have provided columbarium walls. 

“Our review also looked at need and demand for walls. We have looked at a number of types and designs. Those in Glasnevin in Dublin provided designs that are favoured. So, we have the designs and proposals. We will bring these to the next Rural Committee meeting and columbarium walls will be part of that.

“We will then return to the fully Council with definite proposals. We are ready to move on columbarium walls. There has been great work by our Burial Ground Unit, who have worked very well with families. 

Councillor O’Callaghan thanked members and officials for their support. “One hat wont fit all or every graveyard,” he said. “In rural areas, people like to go out and visit and see someones urn or burial ground and we need to give people choices.”

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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