By Noel Dundon
One of the oldest traditions in rural parts of County Tipperary could be in jeopardy as a result of Health and Safety Authority regulations which are set to promote the digging of graves by fully qualified personnel only.
Yes, the days of the bottle of whiskey or poitin shared out by a few neighbours, relatives and friends anxious to give a final dig out to friends - a meeting of spirits you might say - could be dead and buried after it emerged that North
Tipperary County Council is looking into the matter in a very serious light. And, while officials acknowledge that digging of a grave and all that goes along with it, is one of the oldest traditions in the country, they nevertheless point out that having unqualified people digging a hole of some six feet in depth with a three feet rubble pile above, is simply a major risk. Indeed, if the local authority was to dig a similar hole it would require a lot of planning and assessment - a hole of three feet or more requires such assessment.
And, if it’s a thing that accidents were to happen, it is more likely the local authority which will end up ‘coffin’ up, thereby leaving them in a ‘grave’ financial position.
The practice of locals ‘undertaking’ the digging of graves is more common in rural parts of the county and is deemed an honour to be involved in the process. But, being able to work a shovel is no longer enough.
“We are very conscious of the situation and all the sensitivites surrounding it. We are currently examining the recommendations and will bring a policy document before members very soon,” Thurles Area Manager Mr Matt Shortt informed Mayor John Kennedy at a meeting of the Area committee this week.
Mayor Kennedy had expressed his concerns about the prospects of the tradition being ended and described it as a detrimental blow to rural life, or perhaps more accurately, rural death. “This is happening all over the country and I feel is it just gone too far. It will have a big affect on rural life and in spite of all the people who have been buried over the years, I have never heard of anyone getting injured digging the grave,” said Mayor Kennedy.
Thurles Town Clerk Mr Michael Ryan said that funerals in graveyards remain very high risk with people climbing over graves and steps, and leaning on headstones which might not be in good condition. “It is a big concern and while we would be conscious of the whole tradition thing, we also have to be conscious of safety of the public as well,” he said.
Depending on where the location is, it could cost up to 1000 Euro to have the grave opened should it require digging on a Sunday or Bank Holiday. This, on top of all the other expenses means that while the cost of living is going up, so too is the cost of dying.
With cremation becoming more popular, the days of the conventional burial could be up in smoke.