Small rural communities in West Cork may be faced with both developing and maintaining graveyards as a local authority considers centralising burial grounds.
The move, announced yesterday, was described by some angry councillors as “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional”.
Officials in the western division of Cork County Council were warned it would cause much upset.
Officials insist the council’s small budget is inadequate to acquire new sites for burial land and strongly advised communities seeking to keep local cemeteries that they will have to use their own funding.
A report given to members of the council’s western division stated: “In the context of limited resources, the development of burial grounds in strategic locations serving larger populated areas will take priority.”
It also noted: “development of smaller parish burial grounds will also have to be considered in partnership with local communities”.
Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF) said he was concerned the council was “proposing a significant shift of policy” by looking at centralised cemeteries.
“So if people want to retain their cemeteries they will be asked to contribute to their purchase and maintenance. Will we have a two-tier system? Rural communities are also the poor relation when it comes to road maintenance. This seems highly discriminatory,” Cllr O’Rourke said.
He was told that officials had not yet drawn up a list of locations for the so-called centralised graveyards but would be doing so at a later stage.
Cllr Dermot Sheehan (FG) advised officials to be cautious and “not lose sight of the parochial format” of the region.
His party colleague, Cllr Noel O’Donovan also told officials they should have a rethink. He referred to a row which developed in West Cork last year when the council tried to impose byelaws prohibiting the tradition of family members digging graves for loved ones.
“We saw uproar over that. People from rural areas won’t use regional graveyards,” Cllr O’Donovan said.
Mary Ryan, the council’s director of services, said when the council did try and buy suitable land it was often faced by landowners looking for considerably more money than the site was actually worth.
“We’re finding, even though there’s a recession, there’s an unrealistic expectation of the price for land when it comes to burial grounds. We have limited funding and we will have to prioritise over the coming years,” Ms Ryan said.
Cllr O’Rourke was adamant Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) should be used by council officials in such cases and again reiterated he was against centralisation of graveyards.
“It’s a fundamental thing that people who live in an area want to be buried there. We need to extend and develop the existing locations we have,” he said.
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