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Ireland's Eye: What's going on in the old sod

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News from the 32

Graveyard dispute

A Ballybofey man is threatening to have the remains of his parents exhumed from a Donegal graveyard as he feels their grave has not been treated with respect.

Brian Sweeney said he is considering moving the remains of his late parents from the Stranorlar parish graveyard at Drumboe due to an ongoing dispute he is having with the local graveyard committee.

Sweeney claims graves are driven over by a digger, and the excavation of graves by the digger has been causing the sides of existing graves to collapse and headstones to shift. Headstones have been moved to allow access to the mechanical digger, Sweeney claims.

However, referring to Sweeney's claim that a headstone was removed to allow a grave to be dug, the graveyard committee said in a letter last year that they believe the movement of the headstone was caused by subsidence and the headstone was replaced "in a respectable and professional manner."

Meanwhile, Sweeney wants to erect a surround over the family plot, which the family has paid for, to protect it, but he has been prohibited by the committee, which says the graveyard is a lawn cemetery and surrounds are not allowed.

A sign in the graveyard states that the graveyard is for headstones only and surrounds should not be erected.  The ban on surrounds goes back as far as 1978.

A spokesman for the committee said staff takes great care when working around graves.  He denied that the digger is driven over the grave, but if it does come close to graves any damage done is repaired.

"No other family has had an issue with anything in that cemetery," he said. "This has been a lawn cemetery from day one in 1978, for maintenance purposes."

He said there have been some offenders to the no surrounds rule, but those families will be written to on the matter "as they are going against the wishes of the parish.”

"Down the years the priests have had to refuse other people who wanted to put up surrounds and there were a few who went against that," he said.

A solicitor's letter sent to Sweeney on behalf of the Stranorlar parish in March this year said the ban on surrounds is a "firm rule" and "under no circumstances" should Sweeney attempt to erect a surround.  The committee said that while surrounds had been erected before the formation of the committee, there is nothing they can do about that. "Going ahead, we have to instigate the rule of no surrounds," the letter states.

Sweeney said he is considering the drastic move of having the remains of his parents exhumed and moved to another graveyard.

He has written to the parish graveyard committee and the Bishop of Raphoe Dr. Philip Boyce about the matter.
-Donegal Democrat

Englishman wins claim

An English-born fireman who lives in Co. Limerick has been awarded 5,000 in compensation after an equality officer ruled he was discriminated against by his employer, Limerick City Council.

Martin Mannering initiated proceedings against the local authority two years ago following a number of incidents while he was at work. At an equality tribunal hearing in May, Mannering said on one occasion a racist note was posted on his locker at work.

"This is Limerick, Ireland, not Middlesborough," read the note, which suggested that Mannering should "take the advice" of another named colleague.

The tribunal was told the reference to Middlesborough related to where Mannering was originally from.

Mannering said the anonymous note could only have come from within the fire station, and Limerick City Council had failed to protect him from that type of harassment.

The council rejected the allegation that it had discriminated against Mannering because of his nationality. The tribunal was told that Mannering and his union representative met staff at the human resources department shortly after the incident.

The local authority said Mannering and his representative frustrated an internal investigation of the complaint.

However, in his decision, equality officer Stephen Bonnlander ruled that Limerick City Council had discriminated against Mannering, who began work as a fireman in 2001.

He said the chief fire officer had allowed Mannering to transfer to Dublin Fire Service on health and safety grounds, but had not followed up on his harassment claim.

"I find that the chief fire officer's failure to insist on an investigation, in contravention of the very clear obligations which the respondent's anti-harassment policy places on staff members of his level of seniority, amounts to a failure to take steps as are reasonably practicable to prevent the complainant's harassment,” said Bonnlander.

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