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‘If off-licences can be open during coronavirus lockdown in NI, why can’t our cemeteries?’ asks young nurse grieving for mum


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Julie with her mum Deborah who passed away in 2017

Julie with her mum Deborah who passed away in 2017

Julie with her mum Deborah who passed away in 2017

A grieving student nurse has told of her devastation at being prohibited from leaving flowers at her beloved mum's grave.

Julie Dorrian's mother Deborah passed away in June 2017, aged 51, after a battle with cancer, and is buried in Carnmoney Cemetery, which has been closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Her distress has been exacerbated by the death of her 81-year-old grandfather from Covid-19 four days ago.

Oliver Dorrian died on Saturday after contracting coronavirus and is due to be buried on Friday, with a maximum of 10 people permitted to attend the graveside service.

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Julie Dorrian and her grandfather Oliver, who died from Covid-19 on Saturday

Julie Dorrian and her grandfather Oliver, who died from Covid-19 on Saturday

Julie Dorrian and her grandfather Oliver, who died from Covid-19 on Saturday

Julie, who lives in Carnmoney with her dad David (56) - the late Oliver's son - told the Belfast Telegraph that she is heartbroken at not having been allowed to visit her mum's grave since the lockdown started. The 28-year-old also said she "definitely doesn't understand how off-licences can be open and cemeteries closed".

"I'm very sad I can't go and visit my mum," she said. "When I'm feeling stressed or not feeling good it brings me comfort and peace to be able to go there and spend some time.

"It's also very important to me to be able to keep the grave tidy and clean and put fresh flowers on it."

Julie said both her and her widowed father regularly tend to the grave, adding that her brother Glenn (32), who lives in Banbridge with his wife and children, always makes a special point of going there when he comes to visit them.

"It's very rare that I would see anyone else when I go to the cemetery, which makes the decision to shut them even harder to understand," she said.

"It's hard enough to live without my mum being around; but now I can't go and be close to her, or even leave flowers."

Heartbroken Julie also spoke of her sorrow at the recent loss of her grandfather on April 18.

"He had been suffering from Alzheimer's for a long time and was living in a residential home," she said.

"He contracted the virus and became very, very sick very quickly before he passed away. He was pretty unresponsive. I've never seen someone look so ill. It was shocking.

"For more than a week he was pretty much asleep. At least at the end he was in peace and he wasn't in pain any more."

Oliver's death represents more heartache for the family at this difficult time because they must say goodbye amid the stringent restrictions that have been imposed as a result of the killer virus.

But Julie said that organising his funeral has helped her better understand why a decision to close cemeteries may have been taken, even though she does not agree with it.

"I can see both sides of the argument because of the position we're in," she added. "We're having a graveside service on Friday and only 10 of us are allowed to be there. But I can imagine maybe if cemeteries were open there would be a risk of more people trying to attend services, but at the end of the day it's up to people as to how they want to behave.

"I think politicians need to trust the public more. They should change this policy and allow grieving families to visit their loved ones' final resting places.

"For me it all comes back to the same question: if alcohol shops are open, why aren't cemeteries?"

She added: "I can see both sides but I don't really understand what harm could be caused by having cemeteries open. Carnmoney is so big and on the very rare occasion that I saw someone else there they were a huge distance away."

Julie told how Oliver's wife - and her grandmother - Elizabeth, who was known as Lillian, died suddenly from a heart attack in 2016 and she said she would take great comfort from being able to say a final farewell to her grandad at the graveside this weekend.

And she said her family's proximity to his final place of rest will be all the more poignant given the tragic run up to his recent passing in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"I think grandad contracted the virus about 10 days before his death," Julie said.

"We were just lucky that his room was on the ground floor because that meant that when he was extremely ill me and dad could look in through the window and see him. If he had been upstairs we wouldn't have been able to. The care assistants were telling him who we were, but I'm not sure he recognised us. It was all very surreal."

Belfast Telegraph