**I think it's so sad that people can't even be allowed to have the graves of their loved ones the way they want them. There always has to be somebody telling you what you have to do in the interest of conformity.

Distressing scenes at Cemetery
Mother of stillborn climbs in a skip to get grave surround

The mother of a stillborn child plucked the surround of her baby daughter’s grave from a skip after it was ripped up by workmen engaged in a controversial landscape scheme which started three days early on Friday.
Fiona McCartney wept uncontrollably as she tried to restore the grave in Hannahstown Cemetery to its former state.

Weeping mother crumples on grave


A heartbroken mother crumpled in tears onto her daughter’s grave at a Hannahstown Cemetery last Friday morning, after controversial building work to transform the graveyard was started three days ahead of schedule.

With passions running high in St Joseph’s Cemetery, workmen – who were directed to begin the work by the Cemetery Trustees – downed tools for a period.

As reported in last Monday’s Andersonstown News, local woman Fiona McCartney was devastated to learn that building work at the graveyard would be started on Monday, September 27.

The work – involving the removal of grave surrounds and adornments – is, say Trustees, in the interests of improving the cemetery’s overall appearance and tidiness in a ‘one-style-fits-all’ format.

Signs were posted around the graveyard recently and ads taken in the local press indicating that leaseholders would have to remove their surrounds and extra items prior to work beginning today (September 27).

However, workmen were ordered to start work with heavy digging equipment on Friday, at least three days early.

As news spread of the work commencing in the graveyard, relatives made their way to Hannahstown.

An Andersonstown News reporter, accompanied by a photographer, saw that the plot holding Fiona McCartney’s stillborn daughter was singled out for the removal of a surround and a small marble memorial, despite the fact that every other grave in the same row had – at that stage on Friday – not been touched.

Weeping in disbelief and bewilderment, Mrs McCartney dragged the grave surround out of a skip and set about the painful task of putting the modest plot back together.

Workmen assured Fiona that they had not touched the grave, but the distraught mother is convinced her family’s grave was singled out because she went public on the matter last week.

The Andersonstown News looked on as other grave surrounds were dumped in skips and dozens of ornaments were taken from graves and stacked together in a pile for collection by relatives.

Relatives in the graveyard on Friday afternoon expressed a variety of views on the cemetery issue.

One man whose son is buried at Hannahstown described the new scheme as “terrible”.

“It’s one thing doing this to a new graveyard, but trying to do it here is going to cause terrible upset,” he said.

Another man said that the renovation was very welcome and “just a sign of progress, and some people just won’t move with the times.”

Statement from Parish Management Committee

The Management Committee of St Joseph’s Cemetery, Hannahstown, wish to make certain facts clear about the recently announced plans to improve the environment of the cemetery to make it a well-cared-for and suitably dignified place for people to come to bury their deceased family members and friends, to visit their graves and pray for them.

Clear and well publicised notice of the Committee’s intention to remove surrounds and personal artefacts in pursuance of the Regulations of the Cemetery and Grave Leases was given by advertisements in the Andersonstown News, Irish News and Parish Bulletins throughout West Belfast during recent weeks and giving those concerned ample opportunity to remove those items themselves should they wish to do so by Friday, September 17, 2004. A notice to the same effect was also posted prominently on the gates of the cemetery.

The time limit set out in the advertisement has now expired and the Committee has commissioned a contractor to commence work on the removal of items mentioned in the notice. This work has been started to ensure that grass seed sown will have an opportunity to seed and grow before the winter.

The Committee’s plan for the improvement and enhancement of St Joseph’s Cemetery has been greeted with an enthusiastic and positive response and with great support from all lease-holders who have expressed an opinion about the alterations, as it is quite clear that the cemetery will become a much more worthy place for those who are or will be buried in it and also a properly dignified space in which to remember those who have died. The support for the changes is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of lease-holders have already themselves removed the surrounds and other artefacts from their graves durung the period of notice advertised. All concerned are looking forward with eager anticipation to the time when the improvement work is completed, which will be within the next few weeks.

The Committee has been shocked and saddened by the very negative way in which one family (and one family only) has reacted to the plan to make the cemetery a much more dignified place for burying and remembering family members and friends. This reaction has been unique and the Committee hopes and expects that the family will be reasonable and allow this necessary and very worthwhile project to proceed to completion without further aggravation of and interference with the contractor’s workmen and members of the Parish staff.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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