Gravediggers' lives 'are in danger' over new burial depths
GRAVEDIGGERS' lives could be put at risk by new draft bye-laws requiring graves in Co Clare to be dug to a depth of eight feet, undertakers have warned.
Funeral director John Linnane and Fine Gael councillor Bill Slattery are leading the charge against the new burial ground bye-laws were drawn up by Clare County Council.
The Irish Association of Funeral Directors (IAFD) also yesterday described the eight foot requirement as "unworkable" in rural historic graveyards.
Those found flouting the bye-laws will face fines of up to €1,905 on conviction in the district court and a fine of €127 per day if the offence continues.
Mr Linnane said the draft bye-law requiring the eight-foot depth "will put the lives of gravediggers in danger".
"No gravedigger will stand in a grave eight-foot-deep. Where can they go if the wall collapses? The draft bye-law is very badly thought-out and creates its own health and safety risk," he said.
Mr Slattery said he has "serious reservations" over the proposed new rules.
"They are ridiculous as in a lot of graveyards in north Clare it is simply impossible to dig deeper than five or six feet or for a digger to get access to the burial grounds," he said.
Mr Slattery said that on the morning of a recent burial, a council official said that the depth of the grave must be deeper "and this caused a lot of upset and hurt to the family concerned, but common sense prevailed and the burial was allowed to take place".
Ger Dollard, the county's director of services, said burial space in Clare is at a premium, and the whole purpose of the eight-foot depth requirement allows two burials to take place in one plot with coffins placed on top of each other.
"Obviously, if the depth isn't viable at the outset, the second burial becomes very problematic," he said.
Mr Dollard said the draft bye-laws provide for situations where the subsoil does not allow a grave being sunk to eight feet. In those cases a lesser depth can be agreed.
IAFD spokesman Gerry Griffin said yesterday that "the rules are not going to work for some cemeteries".
He said health and safety legislation only allows workers to excavate to a depth of four feet, so gravediggers cannot be asked to break the law.
Mr Griffin said the eight-foot requirement will be no problem for new cemeteries where diggers can have access.
The proposals will be presented for public consultation.