GRAVEYARD plots, some over 100 years old, could soon be taken from families under “Draconian” new laws proposed by Limerick City Council.
Fears have been expressed that elderly people in Limerick will not be able to be buried beside their loved ones, after Limerick City Council’s cemetery by-laws included a provision to take ownership of graves which are more than 40 years old, and have fallen into disrepair.
Labour’s southside councillor Joe Leddin has vowed to fight the proposals, while Independent city north member Kathleen Leddin said the local authority “should not be interfering with graves at all”.
At this week’s city council meeting, members were shown the draft by-laws for cemeteries, which include regulations on the size and layout of tombs.
But there was astonishment at one of the conditions - that the ownership of unattended graves will “revert” to the council. Although director of service Caroline Curley insisted the council will seek out relatives of those in the graves using press adverts, there are fears that because they could be based abroad, this may prove difficult.
Cllr Joe Leddin said the laws are “very draconian” and discriminate against those people who are unable to keep gravesides up to an acceptable state of repair, for example the elderly, those with a disability, or those living abroad.
“While there are issues with many graves that have deteriorated, I believe the city council should carry out appropriate remedial works without the necessity to take ownership of the grave off particular families,” he said.
He said he can foresee a situation where a family member who may have emigrated, wants to return to Limerick, and although they want to be buried with their family, the council owns the grave, and will not open it up again if and when they return.
Cllr Kathleen Leddin says she has had contact with people now based in Germany and Wexford where this situation could arise.
“They want to be buried with their family. A lot of people who I did know, whose family are now abroad, these families would still like to know their relatives graves are not being interfered with,” she said.
Instead of taking ownership of graves, Cllr Joe Leddin wants to see a special fund set aside to allow City Council maintain graves, rather than take them off their owners.
The bye-laws - expected to be debated again next month - also give the council permission to take down and remove any monument which has fallen into decay.