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Council's pall of shame as ban slapped on mourners; HEALTH & SAFETY BARS FAMILIES FROM CARRYING COFFINS.

Byline: By ROBERT LOVE

GRIEVING relatives have been banned from acting as pall bearers in council-owned graveyards.

Fingal County Council chiefs in North Dublin will only allow undertakers to carry coffins on health and safety grounds.

But a spokesman denied reports the move followed lawsuits by amateur pall bearers injured after tripping in council-run cemeteries.

He said: "In the interests of the safety of users of Fingal council burial grounds, the council permits only undertakers or their agents to carry coffins to the graveside.

"All undertakers operating in the county area were advised of this in writing prior to this policy being introduced and no opposition to the policy was expressed."

One undertaker based in North Dublin said the decision made good sense.

The funeral director, who asked not to be named, said: "The council have their own gravediggers, who will take over and carry the coffin if the undertaker wishes.

"The path to a graveside is often narrow and the coffin - which is a heavy item - may have to be carried past other graves.

"Many of these will have uneven kerbstones and they are an accident waiting to happen for an inexperienced pall-bearer.

"I've never seen it happen myself but there's always the chance that someone would trip and get injured or that, God forbid, the coffin would fall."

Fingal County Council runs 34 cemeteries in North County Dublin and where there are more than 700 people buried each year.

Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in England has now followed Fingal's lead.

But the officials in Shropshire also banned relatives from lowering their loved ones into their final resting place.

Council officers instigated the ruling after what they described as a series of "near misses".

A spokesman said the decision fulfilled the authority's obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

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Wheeling them out...Council orders that only undertakers can carry coffins to graves
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 18, 2007
Words:318
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