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*Photograph: John Mangan

A Clare woman whose husband is buried in Ennis is considering exhuming his body due to repeated intimidation experienced when travelling to the cemetery.

Mayor of Clare, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) revealed at this month’s meeting of the Rural Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) that a woman is contemplating exhuming the body of her deceased husband due to ongoing instances of anti-social behaviour at Drumcliffe Cemetery.

The woman who buried her husband eight months ago has “stopped visiting the grave because of being intimidated by people playing music. She is considering exhuming her husband. Jesus Christ, it is wrong, it wouldn’t happen in any other country,” an upset Howard told the meeting.

She referred to reports of items being stolen from graves in Ennis, Quin, Tulla and Clooney over recent months. “We seriously need to get our act together on graveyards particularly with Drumcliffe. It is not good enough”.

“Items are being stolen day in day out. I believe they are going to markets all over the country. I spent a lot of time there over recent months speaking to the bereaved, pretty much everyone has been affected. Nobody is locking the gate, I think there should be a recall on keys and they should only go to people with a medical cert. When the gate is left open, these opportunistic people are coming in,” the Ennis representative added.

Clare County Council are in the process of commencing a review into the operation and maintenance of burial grounds in the county. There are in excess of 160 known burial grounds in Clare with the local authority managing selling rights for 29 of them, 11 of which have a caretaker supplied responsible for light maintenance, contractors are engaged in the maintenance of Drumcliffe and Illaunamanagh.

Council officials have met with Crime Prevention Officer Tríona Brooks regarding the concerns on activity in burial grounds. The “enforceability of CCTV” was questioned by Gardaí during the engagement, Rural and Community Development senior executive officer, Bernie Haugh outlined. “We haven’t stood up once to say enough is enough,” Cllr Howard responded as she called for measures to be introduced.

Director of Service, Leonard Cleary acknowledged there was “a particular issue” in Drumcliffe Cemetery. He admitted that the Council will have to invest in adding extra resources for burial grounds with currently only two people working specifically in this area. “It is a major resourcing issue,” he stated.

A separate policy and management is needed for Drumcliffe, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) believed. He highlighted that Tulla graveyard had experienced stolen items in recent days. “Burial grounds and graves create a lot of emotion, we get a lot of that when it comes to issues on the topic. It is a sensitive issue but an important one to get right,” the SPC Chair concluded.

Fr Brendan Quinlivan, speaking in the past week noted that thefts had been ongoing for the duration of the summer and into the beginning of autumn occurring at the graves belonging to adults and children in Tulla. “It is so hurtful and terribly traumatic, the whole community is terribly upset by it,” the Tulla parish priest stated.

Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) has said “malicious intent” has been evident at graveyards in the county with toys taken from a child’s grave in East Clare.

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