Coffins optional as Victorian burial laws to be revoked

Uncoffined bodies will be accepted in cemeteries from next month

Bodies can be buried without coffins from next month for the first time in more than 120 years under new regulations approved by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

It has been illegal to bury a body in any cemetery unless it was enclosed in a coffin since burial regulations were introduced in 1888.

A change to the regulations will mean that from June 1st cemeteries will be allowed accept "uncoffined bodies". The Victorian rules stated that no burials could occur "unless the body be enclosed in a coffin of wood or some other sufficiently strong material"
Islamic concerns
The latest rules have been introduced to facilitate members of the Muslim faith, who are normally buried without a coffin if permitted by local law, said a spokesman for the Department of the Environment.

“The change to the rule follows concerns recently expressed by members of the Muslim community regarding their traditional burial rituals.”


However, people of any faith, or none, will be permitted to bury loved ones without a coffin once the rules come into force.

The regulations allow a local authority to designate a part of a burial ground for uncoffined interment.

However any cemetery can opt out of providing the service.

Permission for uncoffined burials can also be overruled if environmental health officers believe they could cause a danger to public or environmental health, if for example the cemetery was near a water source.

The Environmental Protection Agency, HSE and the City and County Managers Association were consulted regarding the change and all agreed to the final proposal, said the spokesman.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times