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'New life for old graves': Council to build walls in Dublin's smaller plots so people can be buried locally

The Council has identified four cemeteries to build special walls where cremated remains can be interred.

shutterstock_1191133444 Columbarium walls at Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery Source: Shutterstock/Derick Hudson

CONSTRUCTION IS TO begin this summer to provide Dublin’s smaller graveyards with Columbarium walls under a new heritage strategy from Dublin City Council. 

The Council has identified four cemeteries to build special walls where cremated remains can be interred after local representatives said that people should be allowed be laid to rest in their locality. 

As part of its new strategy for maintaining Dublin city’s graveyards the Council has identified eight burial places outside the city and 10 within the city, four of which it has earmarked for Columbarium walls – Donnybrook, Clontarf, Bluebell and Merrion. 

These walls tend to be a freestanding structures containing niches in which cremated remains are interred and then usually covered with a plaque carrying an inscription.

Construction is to begin at Donnybrook this summer with Columbarium walls due to be installed at Clontarf graveyard later this year. 

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey says he has called for these walls to be built in some of the city’s smaller burial plots for a number of years. 

These walls exist in a number of Dublin’s larger graveyards like Glasnevin cemetery but Lacey has asked them to be built in some of Dublin’s smaller, local plots.

“It’s a very simple idea, it allows people to be buried in their home place, it’s a sustainable income and practice.

“It sounds really corny but it’s new life for old graveyards,” said Lacey. “These graveyards are all locked up…they’re costly to maintain, people are being buried further and further away from where they live so it allows people to be buried locally.”

“It will have to be done in a very sensitive manner but I’m confident we’ll do it properly.”

The Council is piloting the proposal after a 2017 report found that its older graveyards were full and that an estimated 60% of people in Ireland now opt for cremation over burial. 

Screenshot 2021-05-13 13.09.55 - Display 2

Outlining its plans, the Council says it may be appropriate to consider additional options such as plaques for cremation burials, cremated ash scatterings or remembrance garden spaces as designs progress.

The walls should also allow for small ceremonies to take place and provide access for the bereaved.

“This is a particularly sensitive requirement, in these historic deathscapes,” a Council report notes.

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“This may comprise a limited number of seating for the bereaved and space for a small gathering, if feasible.”

The cost of each Columbarium wall providing 80 spaces is estimated at about €16,600.

As part of its overall plan the Council also aims to allow members of the public into many of Dublin’s smaller, closed burial sites and raise awareness of their historical importance. 

Screenshot 2021-05-13 13.09.41 - Display 2 St James's graveyard on James's Street

Sites identified as part of the strategy include St Canice’s graveyard in Finglas, St James’s graveyard and the Jewish cemetery in Ballybough, where the Council plans to allow visitor bookings and refurbish the existing mortuary house. 

“Burial places face a multitude of potential threats and it is vital to first safeguard these sites,” the Council report states.

“The overarching need for the strategy is compounded by the intense urban development pressure and the complex evolution of these historical urban burial places.”

The Council has said a “do-nothing scenario could result in the deterioration of these sites, loss of heritage and following likely increased risk of vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Unfortunately, [seemingly] abandoned burial place environs are more likely to be under pressure for ‘development’.”

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