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021121 Cllr Mary Howard at Drumcliff Cemetery Ennis. Pic Arthur Ellis.

‘I would love those families to know that their loved one was treated with respect and care’

A FORMER Mayor of Ennis has paid tribute to those who visit the graves of unidentified people, believed to have died in tragic circumstances, off the Clare coast.
Following a renewed Garda appeal for help in identifying three bodies, recovered since 2010, Councillor Mary Howard said there are many people who take time out to tend to their graves in Ennis.
In tandem with a recent TV documentary, Kilrush Gardaí have issued a fresh appeal in relation to the identities of two women and one man.
Their bodies were found separately, at locations close to The Cliffs of Moher, in incidents dating back more than a decade. All three have been buried in Drumcliffe Cemetery.
“The situation is heartbreaking,” Councillor Howard said. “There are at least three people buried in Drumcliffe who haven’t been identified.
“I know people who visit the graves regularly and say a prayer because they realise the pain that their loved ones must be feeling, not knowing what has happened. Local people are very good in that respect.
“To the families of those people, it’s as if they simply disappeared. I would love those families to know that their loved one was treated with respect and care, and that people here make an effort to remember them.
“It would be great to put names on those graves, so that those people are no longer nameless.
“It is the month of the Holy Souls and we are all very conscious of those who have passed. It’s right for us to remember them.”
Councillor Howard told The Champion she feels a personal connection to the families of those concerned because of a distant relative who died overseas.
“That ancestor left for Australia during The Gold Rush,” she said. “He got ill and died and was buried in an unmarked grave.
“When I went out to the area, I found a place I was drawn to and put up a cross. I also brought some small stones back from the locality. My father was able to put them on the grave of that young man’s parents and that meant so much to him.
“It is extraordinary to think nowadays that someone can just disappear, but the families of those people may believe that they are living the dream in Ireland or elsewhere. The fact is they’re someone’s son or daughter. Someone out there misses them.”
Funeral Director Daniel Kennedy who featured in the Virgin Media documentary Ireland’s Unidentified Bodies said that over the last number of years, he has been involved in a number of burials of unidentified remains.
“I just think it’s very important that if a family ever did show up, it’s very reassuring for them to know the person was buried with a bit of dignity and given a nice funeral service,” he said.
“The grave would be marked with a grave marker, a wooden cross and a plate. On the plate, we would normally put down where they were found and the date.
In one case, where we knew it was a woman, we put, ‘May She Find Her Way Home’. When I’m in the cemetery and I walk past these graves, I see fresh flowers and it’s nice to think that people in the community are thinking of these people.”

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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