Church of England says Irish phrase on gravestone must have translation

A prominent GAA family in the UK are “devastated” that they have been denied permission to have an Irish term inscribed on their mother’s gravestone.
Church of England says Irish phrase on gravestone must have translation
Margaret Keane is presented with the International Award by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail, with from left, Denis O’Callaghan, AIB, and Alan Esslemont, TG4, during the GAA President’s Awards 2017 at Croke Park.	Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach
Margaret Keane is presented with the International Award by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail, with from left, Denis O’Callaghan, AIB, and Alan Esslemont, TG4, during the GAA President’s Awards 2017 at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach

A prominent GAA family in the UK are “devastated” that they have been denied permission to have an Irish term inscribed on their mother’s gravestone.

The family of Margaret Keane, who died in July 2018, had appealed to have the inscription “In ar gcroithe go deo” engraved on her headstone but a court of the Church of England has ruled that to do so without an accompanying English language translation could leave it open to be read as a political statement.

The term means “in our hearts forever” yet the chancellor of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Coventry has ruled that the Gaelic term must be accompanied with the English translation.

Mrs Keane, who was born in Westmeath, was a member of the Catholic Church but she was buried in the local Church of England graveyard as it was in the suburb of Ash Green in Coventry where she had spent most of her life.

Her death at the age of 73 in July 2018 is the subject of a legal case being taken against the health authorities by her family as it occurred in controversial circumstances.

“We are devastated,” Mrs Keane’s daughter Bernadette told the Irish Examiner. “We loved our mum and her death was traumatic and unexpected and we have been through processes running along with fighting for the headstone so we have been in suspended grief.

“It was to be a last memorial to a dear and special woman and will also be the headstone of our father when that day comes so not to have that allowed was devastating.”

Mrs Keane’s widower Bernard, a native of Ballyhaunis, was previously the president of the GAA in Great Britain, and Margaret had also been active in the association all her life. In 2017, she was the recipient of the GAA president’s medal.

The family had requested the headstone include a Celtic Cross with the emblem of the GAA at its centre along with the four-word term.

After their initial request was rejected, they then appealed to the church’s Consistory court which allowed the cross and emblem but refused to allow the Irish term stand on its own.

“Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of the Irish Gaelic, there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement,” according to the Stephen Eyre, chancellor of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Coventry.

British historian Francis Young tweeted that he found the judgment “shocking”.

“I am left open mouthed at this apparent resurgence of old-fashioned anti-Irish prejudice, not only in a judicial tribunal, but in a judicial tribunal of the church.”

When contacted by the Irish Examiner, he said that he was not an expert in this area and was speaking as a concerned citizen.

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