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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

In modern Ireland, the pauper's funeral is not a thing of the past

One funeral director said while these funerals are done with dignity and respect, it is sad that there is no one to say a final goodbye.

Source: cross image via Shutterstock

It can be very sad to think that a person lived their life on this earth for maybe 72 years and on their day of passing they have no one to say goodbye to them.

MOST PEOPLE ARE familiar with the term ‘pauper’s funeral’, but for many it seems like a phenomenon of the past.

The reality is that the State pays for and organises the funerals of dozens of people each year all across the country, because the deceased has no one around to pay them that final tribute.

Over the last five years, the Department of Social Protection has paid out €28 million in exceptional needs payments to help cover the costs of funerals.

Most of these grants would be paid to family members organising services, but the department told that they also cover arrangements for those with no next of kin.

Source: Statista

Limerick funeral director Michael Daffy, who has been hired on occasion to organise these types of funerals, said that while they are done on a low budget, “they’re done with the highest of dignity and respect”.

Like the Department of Social Protection, councils also take responsibility for funeral and burial costs, when there is no one else to take care of them, paying for almost 40 funerals in the last five years.

Figures released to through a number of Freedom of Information requests show the highest number of ‘pauper’s funerals’ was in Dublin city.

The council paid for 26 burials and cremations. Costs included a hearse and bearers, a coffin, administration and, in the case of burials, the opening of a grave.

  • Cork City Council paid expenses for three funerals – all in 2013 at a total cost of €6,445
  • In Limerick the council waived burial fees in one case in 2014, at a total cost of €795
  • Clare County Council provided three burial plots free of charges over five years at a cost of €1,155
  • One funeral was funded by Kildare County Council in 2014, costing €1,630.
  • Galway County Council paid for four funerals in 2014, at a total cost of €1,170.

Daffy explained how these funerals work:

Every person is entitled to a requiem mass. First of all we would collect the person from the place of death and, if there are no clothes available, they’re laid out in a shroud. We would make all the arrangements with the local church and there’d be a full funeral with a requiem mass and burial.

“The councils often provide a grave which is sometimes turned into what in the past we called a mass grave. It’s not like it was years ago when you’d have seven or eight people in the one grave – that wouldn’t be allowed anymore.

“If the council has a couple of graves in the corner of cemetery that they’re finding it hard to sell they would donate that.”

‘It’s very sad’

Crosses with engraved breastplates are placed at graves for each person, Daffy said, though it is rare they are ever replaced by a headstone.

Ten years later I’d often go back where a person has been buried and seen the cross I erected had fallen down or is covered by high grass, it’s very sad. And it’s very sad no one marks their name in stone.

The funeral director said these funerals are more prevalent in Irish cities, which could have up to 15 a year.

“People take it upon themselves in the country to look after one another,” he explained.

In many cases, where a homeless person has passed away, no one claims their remains or organises a funeral.

“Sometimes they may be known as characters in the area. So, you may have a fondness for them because you’d see them around.”

These figures would also include elderly people who have no family left.

It can be very sad to think that a person lived their life on this earth for maybe 72 years and on their day of passing they have no one to say goodbye to them.

“But you’d always, always have someone who turns up to the funeral, people from the area. I’ve never ever had a funeral that no one turned up for and I think that’s nice.”

Read: The traditional Irish wake: Why rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated>

Read: ‘What I’ve learned from working in a crematorium for 33 years’>

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