The inability of people across County Galway to bury loved ones in local graveyards is causing huge concern to Galway County Council and the situation has now reached crisis point. This week’s local authority meeting heard that one third of the county’s 230 graveyards now require an extension.
Mayor of County Galway Mary Hoade outlined that in Annaghdown, only two burial plots remain at the local cemetery. She said a community group was working with the county council in relation to securing a site adjacent to the present one.
Councillor Seán O Tuairsig said the issue was “chronic’’ in Connemara and about seven graveyards were full including Leenane, Ballnafad and Muiris. ‘’People cannot be buried locally, that’s how bad things are now in Connemara. A drastic remedy is needed to get something done in the area. The current plan is not addressing the situation. A special look must be given to Connemara.’’
Fellow Connemara councillor Seamas Walsh said it was an emotive matter and the council must make funding available for the expansion of graveyards. ‘’Funding is the crux of this. It is the one area we need to concentrate on and provide money for, to give people a bit of dignity. We form the budget every year, that is our democratic function. It is imperative we find money for this. If you cannot bury your mother or father in a plot in Connemara, how can we go out to people discussing other issues?’’
Corrandulla based Independent councillor James Charity said it was extremely important that the council addresses this issue. ‘’For families who lose loved ones, it’s abhorrent to think they are not going to be buried in the same cemetery as their relatives or even locally in the same parish.’’ Councillor Charity said the council seemed to have no difficulty in finding money for ‘’ridiculous projects’’ such as renovating the council chamber but could not find adequate funding for the extension of graveyards.
Councillor Seosamh Ó Cualáin said communities themselves need to alert the council as to where there are problems. ‘’It is difficult for the council to get out to every parish in the county and say, you need a new graveyard.’’
A number of councillors said that the local authority must alert the public to the fact it is seeking land for the expansion of cemeteries so landowners may come forward with offers. However, officials warned that advertising may lead to expectations that excessive prices would be paid. Padraig Carroll of the council’s environment section said that due to lack of funding there were only two feasible ways that land could be secured- if it was gifted by the landowner for free or sold at agricultural value. He said extensions were being carried out within budget constraints. ‘’Each year there is an annual budget for extending graveyards. In the past year, we carried out about 10 extensions which is quite good. We liaise with the communities and find it works well - when community support is there, things tend to get done a lot quicker.’’
A number of councillors were critical of the fact that the local authority would not advertise for land, claiming the wider public was well aware that extortionate prices had never been paid for land to be used for cemeteries. Mayor Mary Hoade proposed the county council advertise in local newspapers that it was seeking burial lands in the Claregalway area which was passed.