Volunteers to clean up historic graveyard

A VOLUNTEER committee has been formed to help plan a major clean-up of one of Cork’s most historic cemeteries.

The move follows a public meeting in the city on Thursday night after concerns were raised about the state of St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Glasheen where sections have become over-grown with grass and weeds.

Government cutbacks and the public service recruitment embargo have been blamed and the cemetery’s maintenance team has been slashed from eight workers to just two. The workers have been told to prioritise grave digging.

An eight-person volunteer committee, The Friends of St Finbarr’s Cemetery, has now been set up to liaise with city officials and agree an approach to the clean-up which is due to take place on August 21.

Cllr John Buttimer, who helped organise the public meeting, said he hopes the new group will bring about improvements at the graveyard.

The council needs to iron out a range of health and safety and insurance issues because the burial grounds’ 1,500 plots are privately owned.

Committee member Monica Sexton said she is heartbroken at the state of the cemetery.

“I have never seen it so bad. It is a hopeless no-man’s land at the moment,” she said.

But progress can be made if the committee works with the city, she said.

However, independent city councillor, Mick Finn called on city officials last night to set up a dedicated “cemetery squad” to prevent the issue becoming an annual problem.

He said all available council personnel could be deployed to carry out the necessary work in St Finbarr’s at the height of the summer growing season, and deployed on a rota basis at any other cemetery with difficulties.

“It will mean forging different teams together for two or three months but they could return to their individual postings for the rest of the year,” he said.

St Finbarr’s on the Glasheen Road in the western suburbs is one of the city’s largest and one of the oldest cemeteries still in use.

Unlike older cemeteries, it was professionally laid out with numbered pathways and wide avenues.

While relatives of those who own plots there are maintaining their own individual areas, many of the older plots, and some of its communal areas, are heavily overgrown.

The cemetery’s republican plot near the mainentrance is one of the few areas which is being maintained.

Among those buried in St Finbarr’s are martyred lords mayor Terence McSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain; former taoiseach Jack Lynch; the antiquarian, Richard Rolt Brash, who was among the first to decipher the ancient Ogham writing style; sculptor Seamus Murphy; and Cork’s first lord mayor Daniel Hegarty.

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