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Coronavirus: Find way to open cemeteries in Northern Ireland, pleads woman who lost parents to Covid-19


Isobel and Christopher Vallely

Isobel and Christopher Vallely

Isobel and Christopher Vallely

A devastated daughter who lost both parents to Covid-19 within hours of each other has called for cemeteries in Northern Ireland to be reopened to the public.

Fiona Vallely's father Christopher (79), who was better known as Arty, and mother Isobel (77) died just 12 hours apart in the same room at the Mater Hospital in their native Belfast on March 28.

The couple, who had been married for 53 years, had a joint funeral Mass which was watched remotely by their loved ones ahead of Arty's cremation and Isobel's interment at Milltown Cemetery.

Fiona (40) said not to be able to visit her mum's grave following her burial was "really heartbreaking".

"I didn't realise I wouldn't be able to see the wreaths and flowers on her grave afterwards," she said.

"Under usual circumstances you could visit her final resting place and have a quiet moment.

"I believe that cemeteries should be open but, having said that, I understand why it may be difficult at this present time."

Fiona, who is based in Tenerife, but returned to Belfast to care for her mother when she had a stroke seven months ago, suggested the implementation of social distancing guidelines. She said people "will need to respect the rules".

"Maybe there's a way of not opening cemeteries completely, or letting families visit at certain times, or by appointment," she added.

"Only a certain number of people should be allowed in at a time because of coronavirus."

Fiona said that losing her parents was especially hard for her and brothers Mark (43) and Chris (47) as it happened so publicly and at such speed.

"It was all so surreal," she said.

"I understand why there are restrictions, but some parks are open and people are walking around and I can't see the difference between them and cemeteries.

"It can also be difficult to keep your distance in supermarket aisles, even though numbers are restricted, whereas cemeteries are big open spaces.

"If they reopened the cemeteries, the first thing that I would do is visit mum."

Belfast Telegraph