'8FT UNDER WILL PUT US IN GRAVE DANGER' Funeral directors hit out at proposed cemetery depth requirements.
Byline: GORDON DEEGAN
THE lives of workers will be put at risk by new laws requiring graves to be dug to a depth of 8ft, it was claimed yesterday.
Funeral director John Linnane and Fine Gael councillor Bill Slattery are leading the charge against the new burial ground draft bye-laws in Clare.
And the Irish Association of Funeral Directors yesterday described the 8ft requirement as "unworkable" in rural, historic graveyards.
Those found flouting the bye-laws will face fines up to [euro]1,905 on conviction in the district court and a fine of [euro]127 per day if the offence continues.
Mr Linnane said the 8ft depth "puts the lives of gravediggers in danger".
The North Clare undertaker said: "No gravedigger will stand in a grave 8ft 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. Five-and-a-half to six feet is plenty." Mr Slattery said he has "serious reservations" over the draft bye-laws.
He added: "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."
Mr Slattery said on the morning of a recent burial in North Clare, a council official said 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".
He added the draft bye-law as presented creates a health and safety issue "as it is not safe to stand in a grave without supporting sidewalls".
Miltown Malbay funeral director James O'Friel said the new requirement "is not a runner when it comes to a lot of cemeteries as it will be impossible to dig to that depth".
He added if bereaved families are required to hire a digger to excavate to 8ft deep "it will add considerably to the funeral expenses".
Director of service with Clare County Council Ger Dollard said burial space in thcaawptrmttipcb the Banner county is at a premium and the whole purpose of the 8ft depth require-ment allows two burials to take place in the one plot where coffins will be placed on top of each other. He added: "Obviously, if the depth isn't viable at the outset, the second burial becomes very problematic."
Mr Dollard said the draft bye-laws do provide where the sub soil doesn't permit the grave being sunk to the 8ft depth, then a lesser one can be agreed with the HSE.
Spokesman for the Irish Association of Funeral Directors Gerry Griffin said yesterday that "the rules are not going to work for some cemeteries".
He added health and safety legislation only allows workers to excavate in a hole to a depth of 4ft so gravediggers can't be asked to break the law.
Mr Griffin said: "There is a rural-urban divide on this, but I believe that common sense will have to prevail".
Funeral directors and members of the public will be able to make submissions on the draft bye-laws when they go out on public display later this month.
"The draft is very badly thought out and creates its own safety risk JOHN LINNANE NORTH CLARE, YESTERDAY
ANGER FG's Bill Slattery