Irish language headstone inscription permitted for Coventry GAA stalwart

In ár gcroíthe go deo to appear on headstone after Church of England appeal court ruling

A sitting of the Court of Arches of the Church of England in Canterbury has ruled a woman should be allowed have an Irish language inscription on her gravestone without an English translation.

The three-judge appeal court of the Church of England delivered its ruling on Wednesday in an appeal taken by the family of the late Margaret Keane, who died in July 2018 at the age of 73.

They wanted the words “In ár gcroíthe go deo” (“In our hearts for ever”) inscribed on the headstone at her grave at St Giles burial ground in Exhall, Coventry.

However Stephen Eyre QC, a judge in a Church of England ecclesiastical court, ruled in 2020 that a translation of the inscription must also be included as there was a risk it could otherwise be seen "as a political statement".


“Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of 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,” said the Diocese of Coventry chancellor.

Written ruling to follow

Following a day-long hearing the Canterbury court said it would allow the family’s appeal and the gravestone could bear the inscription without translation. But Morag Ellis QC, the Dean of the Arches, said the court would attach the condition that a translation of the Irish-language wording be provided in the appropriate parish register. The court is to provide a written ruling at a later date.

The court said the case had involved “fascinating and difficult legal territory, and difficult emotional territory”.

Caoilfhoinn Gallagher QC, for the family, told the hearing the family was hoping that the court ruling would have bearing generally in relation to discrimination, and not just address the case involving the family, so that others would not have to go through a similar experience.

Ms Keane was senior figure with the Coventry GAA and received a President's International Award at a Croke Park ceremony in 2017.

Her gravestone, which can now be erected according to family wishes, will carry a Celtic Cross, GAA logo and the words as Gaeilge.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent