Cork County Council is to debate controversial new bylaws governing the maintenance of cemeteries which would allow floral tributes, photographs and other mementoes be removed from graves in newer cemeteries.
The bylaws were proposed by the council’s special policy committee with the aim of making for more efficient maintenance of graveyards where council staff could use ride-on mowers and other machinery to cut what would essentially be a lawn cemetery with no kerbstones.
The bylaws were set out in a 14-page document and there was little controversy about the majority of the proposals but now councillors have admitted they should have examined them more closely as concern has arisen about a small number of the proposals for lawn cemeteries.
Among the controversial proposals is one prohibiting the planting of trees, shrubs and flowers in lawn cemeteries and the granting of powers to council staff to remove any such flowers, floral wreaths or personal mementoes like photographs or toys within two months without notifying families.
The issue was highlighted after the council reported that some 72 plots in the new cemetery in Kilcrumper near Fermoy were not in compliance with the new bylaws, prompting local Fianna Fáil Cllr Frank O'Flynn to seek deferral of the bylaws until they are fully debated.
“The number of people who have contacted me over this is unbelievable,” he said adding that the council needs to know what agreements were in place in the various graveyards when people purchased the graves.
Mr O'Flynn was supported by Fine Gael Cllr Deirdre Forde from Rochestown who said there should be no attempt to impose the bylaws retrospectively on existing graves bought many years ago.
According to Cork County Council, it operates and maintains more than 300 cemeteries throughout Cork county though many of these would be older graveyards with kerbing.
Of these 300 cemeteries, there are at least 40 lawn cemeteries with some 15 lawn cemeteries in West Cork municipal district, three in Cobh, five in Ballincollig-Carrigaline and 18 in Fermoy.
Figures were not available for how many of the 46 cemeteries in Kanturk -Mallow municipal district and how many of the 27 cemeteries in the Blarney-Macroom were lawn cemeteries or had lawn sections.
According to Cork City Council, it manages four cemeteries of which two operate as lawn cemeteries without kerbstones and bylaws prohibit the planting of shrubs and allowing for the removal of wreaths after three months and the council in general has no difficulty with compliance.