Plan to extend Inis Mór cemetery stalled


MEDIEVAL CHRONICLER Giraldus Cambrensis recorded how bodies were left exposed on the Aran islands rather than buried in the meagre soil on the limestone rock.

Nine centuries later, there is a severe shortage of graveyard space on Inis Mór. Plans by Galway County Council to extend a cemetery on the island have stalled as the land is designated under the EU habitats directive.

Inis Mór resident Séamus Jamesie Ó Flatharta said the community was “battling for years for a new graveyard”, given the shortage of plots in three existing cemeteries. “It has gone to the stage where people are being forced to bury their relatives on cemetery pathways,” he told The Irish Times.

“When Galway County Council negotiated for extra land at Cnocán na mBan at Cill Mhuirbhigh, we thought it was sorted, but now the botanists’ survey has set us all back,” Mr Ó Flatharta said.

The council confirmed yesterday that the additional land had been acquired, and it had applied for planning permission to extend the Cnocán na mBan cemetery.

It said it received advice from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that a botanical survey should be conducted. The council understood this could not occur until the spring. The Department of the Environment said the advice would relate to the EU directive, as most of Inis Mór is a designated special area of conservation.

Fianna Fáil county councillor Séan Ó Tuairisc said the situation was critical as the oldest graveyard at Cill Éinne was full as was Reilig na Seacht dTeampall at Sruthán.

The only option was to extend at Cill Mhuirbhigh, Mr Ó Tuairisc said. “But the problem extends to the mainland in west Galway, as nearly half the graveyards there are nearly full,” he said.

Independent councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig said: “One wonders about the EU habitats directive – is there any more protected place than a graveyard for a plant to grow?”