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Northern Ireland council waives burial fees for children and stillborn births

By Peter Hutcheon, Local Democracy Reporter

Derry City and Strabane District Council has agreed to waive funeral costs at council-owned facilities for children under 18 and stillborn births.

A motion agreeing the move was passed unanimously at a meeting of the full council at the Guildhall on Thursday.

It will remain in place until the matter can be looked at and acted on regionally across Northern Ireland by a restored Assembly.

The motion was brought initially by incoming mayor John Boyle of the SDLP, who accepted an amendment by Derek Hussey of the Ulster Unionist Party. Two subsequent motions on the same issue, from Councillor Hussey and Sandra Duffy of Sinn Fein were subsequently withdrawn.

Proposing his motion Councillor Boyle said that Northern Ireland was falling further behind the rest of the UK in the matter of funeral costs for children, largely because of the situation at Stormont.

"Nothing can really help bereaved parents," he said.

"Parents do not expect to bury their children and no-one plans for burying or cremating a child because it is unthinkable. Sadly, though, from time to time it does happen.

"I think that it is a shame that this has not been done before now and it would be a small mercy that we could give to grieving parents.

"The financial cost of this is not something that we couldn't bear."

Aldermen Hussey agreed that schemes similar to that operating in England should be established here.

Sinn Fein's Patricia Logue said: "The loss of a child or young person is a traumatic enough experience without having to bear the financial cost as well."

Independent Unionist Maurice Devenney queried whether covering costs could be extended to children whose families would want them buried in churchyards.

Mayor Councillor Maoliosa McHugh replied that the council could only waive costs for which it was responsible.

The amended passed motion read: "Derry City and Strabane District Council notes the recent introduction of Government funding in England and Wales to cover the funeral costs of children.

"This council further recognises that in the absence of a functioning devolved government at Stormont such an appropriate action cannot yet be introduced regionally.

"We welcome the introduction of a scheme to address this anomaly in other councils in the North.

"Therefore Derry City and Strabane District Council will henceforth introduce measures to waive all costs associated with the opening a grave for children under 18 years of age until such time as a regional initiative is introduced."

It was passed unanimously.

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