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Councillors in Londonderry unite to unanimously back suspension of burial costs


Derry City and Strabane District Council’s City Cemetery

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s City Cemetery

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s City Cemetery

Derry and Strabane councillors have voted unanimously to waive burial costs for bereaved families as a show of compassion to people impacted by the lockdown.

Sinn Fein's Michaela Boyle said her proposal was designed to assist and support grieving families during these "extraordinary times" as they are forced to lay loved ones to rest without the traditional customs of a large wake and funeral.

Funerals, burials and wakes can currently only be attended by immediate family, with a maximum of 10 people permitted.

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It is understood that Derry and Strabane District Council is the first local authority in Northern Ireland to back the measure, which is expected to be introduced in the near future.

Other councils are considering similar plans but have yet to bring them forward.

Ms Boyle said her proposal would help families struggling with grief and their finances, with many people having been laid off work.


Councillor Michaela Boyle

Councillor Michaela Boyle

Councillor Michaela Boyle

She told this newspaper: "These are extraordinary times we are living in now.

"I think one of the worst aspects of the lockdown measures are the controls on how we treat our dead.

"Wakes and funerals, where large numbers of friends, relatives and neighbours gather to recall memories of someone who has passed and to offer condolences to the immediate family, are a long-held tradition on this island.

"Since the lockdown was introduced, that very important part of the grieving process has been denied to so many people, which has without a doubt added to their pain.

"I felt it was important that we as a council show families compassion and let them know we care that they are having to say goodbye to their loved ones under terrible restrictions.

"We will continue to have the conversation about entitlement and from when these costs will be waived, but I imagine this to be for during the period of the lockdown.

"I believe this is the right thing to do. It is the most humane thing to do as a compassionate and caring council."

The cost of a grave in a council-owned cemetery varies greatly across Northern Ireland.

Belfast City Council charges between £608 and £1,908 for a new grave, depending on whether or not it is for a resident, and between £439 and £878 to open an existing grave - again, depending on whether the grave is for a resident or not.

Newry, Down and Mourne District Council charges residents £250 for a grave and £210 to open an existing grave. Charges for non-residents are £500 for a grave and £600 to open an existing grave.

In Derry and Strabane, meanwhile, the cost of a new plot is £335 and the cost to reopen an existing one is £168.

Ms Boyle said that waiving these fees would be particularly helpful to families who have lost employment because of the coronavirus lockdown.

"I know when it comes to losing someone you love that the cost of a funeral is not at the forefront of people's minds, but so many families have lost their jobs because of the lockdown and are struggling financially," she explained.

"The cost of a burial in our council is not the most expensive when you consider what some other councils charge, but not having to find the £200 or £300 for a grave will be a relief for so many families."

Belfast City Council said it had removed certain charges on a number of burials.

A spokesman added: "Our burial charges remain the same. However, during these difficult times, we have removed premium charges for burials and cremations on Saturdays and public holidays."

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