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Appeals made over cemetery closures

A NUMBER of local politicians have applied to the Department of Health to have the restrictions on visiting cemeteries relaxed.

Following the latest government limitations on the coronavirus Derry City and Strabane District Council reviewed a number of its services and this included the closure of all council owned and run cemeteries to the public from Monday.

Under the new government legislation cemeteries can only remain open to facilitate funerals.

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A spokesperson for the local authority explained, “The council understands that these measures are very difficult for many families who are grieving and want to visit the graves of loved ones. However this is necessary for the health and safety of staff and the wider public and to allow us to continue with cemetery services in such a challenging time for everyone. We continue to work closely with the churches and undertakers in relation to funeral planning and cemetery arrangements and appreciate the co-operation and understanding of the public at this time.”

However following a number of complaints by locals, public representatives have suggested discretion must be applied to the situation.

West Tyrone MLA, Daniel McCrossan wrote to Health Minister, Robin Swann on Wednesday.

“In the past few days dozens of constituents have contacted us to raise concerns about this restriction,” the letter explained.

“This is especially the case where families have recently lost loved ones, or where they have lost children. They are no longer able to go to their gravesides in order to pay their respects…

“We would be grateful if your department could review this decision and relax this condition subject to strict adherence of rules around social distancing etc.”

Similarly, Strabane independent councillor, Paul Gallagher says a compromise is possible where people can visit gravesides but still maintain distance to one another.

“A system could be set up where people could book a slot to visit a graveyard,” he explained. “This could all be done online. Not that this would happen but you obviously can’t have lots of people visiting a graveyard at the same time. But if you set a number of say 30 people, that way people could visit the graveside and still be able to keep their distance.”

Cllr Gallagher made this proposal through council and this will be fed into the Department’s forthcoming review of the restrictions.

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