A plan to create a digitised record of burial plots in Cork county has been put on ice.
Along with the financial challenges, Cork County Council does not have the manpower available to pursue the project, at this stage.
It had been envisaged the local authority would have a county-wide record, available in digital form, to assist locals, tourists and others to search for relatives or research their roots.
But officials have pointed to a lack of resources to pursue the project.
A number of years ago, the county council carried out a ‘scoping exercise’ to see what the proposed project entailed. It included establishing the number of cemeteries involved, staff resources available, and the likely cost of it.
Initially, the scheme was confined to the North Cork region where 70 cemeteries were identified for digitisation. But concerns about it being put on hold emerged after Cllr John Paul O’Shea inquired what had become of the project.
Officials from the council’s Northern Division said the cost of completing it and the resources required were beyond what council officials thought acceptable. However, the council had secured digital photographic records of burial grounds in the Kanturk-Mallow municipal district area.
Cllr O’Shea was advised around 30 people had been involved in transcribing and mapping headstones over a two-year period in one graveyard alone.
Furthermore, the digitisation of records was outsourced to an external company as the council, itself, did not have adequate resources. The outsourcing, it emerged, involved “significant additional costs”.
Officials said there would also be a significant cost for a GPS and image-enabled IT system to store and process such information, including the online element.
The expertise of an archivist would also be required to manage the project.
Municipal district manager Mary Hayes said consent would be required from dioceses in the region to compile a full inventory of burial sites.
Cllr O’Shea said he was disappointed the project had been put on hold and noted some burial registers had been lost.
“We, as a council, have a responsibility,” he said. “It’s crucial we don’t lose that history and knowledge.”
Cllr Frank O’Flynn told a council meeting: “We’re talking about our heritage here and it’s important it’s not lost forever. I don’t like the answer that it’s not feasible.”
Cllr Gerard Murphy recalled trainees with state agency Fás had, 20 years earlier, digitised records for all graves in the Duhallow area. “It would be a fright if we had to repeat a lot of that work,” he said.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty said to create a centralised system across the county “requires serious effort”.
“If you want to resuscitate the project, it will have to be at a county level,” he said. “Consent of church and diocese will be required and the last thing we want to do is have the wrong person nominated for the wrong plot.”
Mr Fogarty explained the county council’s IT department was, at present, “pinned to its collar” and faced a further six months at least dealing with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved