Irish language headstone installed in English churchyard after legal battle

Family of Margaret Keane (73) confirmed installation on St Patrick’s Day

The family of an Irish woman who had fought a legal battle to have an Irish language message on her headstone in a UK cemetery finally had it put in place before St Patrick’s Day.

Margaret Keane’s relatives had wanted the simple words “In ár gcroíthe go deo”, meaning in our hearts forever, at her grave at St Giles burial ground in Exhall, Coventry.

On social media on Wednesday, the family said it was a “poignant end” to their campaign.

“On this St Patrick’s Day sees mums headstone finally installed, today may mum finally rest in eternal peace,” read a tweet on the Message for Margaret account.


A separate post noted: “Installing the headstone is not just symbolic for us as a grieving family, it’s symbolic to the Irish community because it united behind us.”

Margaret Keane died in July 2018 at the age of 73.

Last month a sitting of the Court of Arches of the Church of England in Canterbury ruled the wording should be allowed without an English translation.

Stephen Eyre QC, a judge in a Church of England ecclesiastical court, had previously ruled that a translation of the inscription was required 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.

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

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times