Anger over moves to ban cars from Clonmel cemetery

Eamonn Wynne


Eamonn Wynne


St. Patrick's cemetery Clonmel

It's planned to close the gates of St. Patrick's Cemetery in Clonmel to vehicles from the end of September

There has been an angry reaction to a decision to ban cars from driving into St. Patrick's Cemetery in Clonmel.

An online petition has been launched and a committee formed to oppose the move, which is due to come into force at the end of September once a new car park - with an entrance from St. Patrick's Road - is provided beside the cemetery.

"I cannot visit my son if they put barriers in at the cemetery, I have limited mobility at the moment", an emotional Anne Kerton stated this week.

Her son John Kerton died in February 2015, aged just 34, following a battle with cancer.

"Just because he is not physically beside me, I still need to see him. When I feel the need to talk to him my heart hurts and I have to go and see him.

"We cannot allow this to happen, you can't take people's God-given right away". 

Mrs. Kerton - a member of the newly-formed group, The Friends and Family of St. Patrick's Cemetery - says that she often drives into the graveyard late at night and sits in the dark in her car beside her son's grave.

However she says she wouldn't feel safe walking to the grave from a car park if vehicles are banned.

She was one of those who strongly objected when this proposal was first suggested by Tipperary County Council three years ago. When the council eventually backed down she and other objectors understood that it would never be raised again.

"A lot of people in the town are hurt and old people are at home fretting about this", she says.

"Many people who visit the cemetery are vulnerable and people support one another there. Some people visit every single day and others don't go to bed at night until they go to the cemetery".

Mrs. Kerton says that in any democracy somebody can't come in and tell people what's happening without asking them first, and overrule the people of the town.

Many people, including florists, drive into the graveyard with heavy flowerpots, while one undertaker told her he never had a problem during funerals.

She also understood that traffic had been diverted through the cemetery when work was being carried out on the Waterford Road some time ago.

Mrs. Kerton also claimed that any damage to graves had been caused by the council's own JCBs.

She also cast doubt on a figure that had been mentioned of 300 vehicles a day passing through the gates.

Meanwhile Anthony Coleman, District Administrator of Clonmel Borough District, said the current arrangements - where any type of vehicle had unrestricted access to the graveyard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round - were no longer sustainable.

He said the volume of traffic was increasing and was causing a significant amount of damage to graves and headstones, as well as to the pathways of an old cemetery that dated back to the 18th century and wasn't built to accommodate the current volume of traffic.

He had met with families who were upset about the damage caused and who had almost stopped repairing graves and headstones that had been repeatedly damaged.

He said that a traffic survey taken last January showed that there were between 1,600 and 1,700 vehicle movements a week through the cemetery gates. However when another survey was taken in June that weekly figure had increased to 4,370.

"That's the equivalent of the volume of traffic you'd expect on a local road, but in this case it's travelling through a narrow pathway", said Mr. Coleman.

He said this was impacting on people's ability to walk in and visit graves in peace and quiet. In some cases it had also disrupted funerals, and impacted on maintenance work by council staff.

Permits were needed to erect headstones but because there was unrestricted access to vehicles, the provision of headstones and other work on graves was being carried out without permits by some people.  

Mr. Coleman said that the additional car parking adjacent to the cemetery, which he hopes will be completed by the end of September, would have sixty regular spaces and a further ten for motorists with disability permits.

He said that the decision to ban vehicles from the cemetery was an executive one (taken by the officials only and not the elected members). He said that councillors had raised concerns and these had been addressed by providing extra parking facilities. 

"I know that people will be discommoded but it's about accommodating the majority of people who don't drive into the cemetery, and want to visit their loved ones' graves in peace and quiet", said Mr. Coleman.

"It's about trying to be as fair as possible to everybody".

District Mayor Richie Molloy said there were mixed views on this.

A lot of people were angry that they would no longer be able to drive into the cemetery. However several people had also contacted him to say that headstones had been damaged by cars and that they felt unsafe walking through the graveyard with so many cars there.

He confirmed that councillors had no say in the decision, although he said they had expressed their concerns to the officials.