Burial grounds (cemeteries) are the responsibility of the local authorities. Many of them are operated by local authorities who appoint a registrar or caretaker for each of their burial grounds to manage the sale of plots in that site, and in some cases to maintain the burial ground. Parishes operate some burial grounds, while local groups also operate burial grounds. If you want to purchase a burial plot, you can contact your local authority to get contact details. However, many funeral directors offer to handle the purchase of burial plots as part of their package of funeral services.
It is important to point out that many burial grounds or graveyards are already full, and there may be restrictions on the pre-purchase or buying in advance of burial plots, such as limiting advance buying to those over 65 years of age.
All burials must be registered with the local authority and the location of the grave noted. This is done by the people who manage the graveyard.
The main rules for burial grounds are set out in the Rules & Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds 1888 and the relevant amending regulations. Each local authority makes bye-laws in relation to the regulation of burial grounds in their area. They cover various matters including the allocation, size and purchase of burial plots, the recording of burials, the maintenance of a register of burials, and the requirements regarding headstones and monuments, as well the depth of burials and first interments.
The Burial Ground (Amendment) Regulations 2013 amended the 1888 Regulations to allow for uncoffined burials in an area of a burial ground designated exclusively for that purpose.
Looking after burial grounds
Caretakers may be employed by the local authority to maintain the graveyard, although many local authorities now encourage the establishment of voluntary groups who maintain burial grounds in their area.
These groups are supported by many local authorities in the form of burial ground maintenance priming grants. This grant helps towards the cost of the groups' activities, which include grass cutting and planting in burial grounds, weed control, and the construction and improvement of gates, entrances and boundary walls.
It is possible to design a headstone yourself or hire a sculptor to make it for you, but, in practice, the funeral directors you employ to look after funeral arrangements will arrange the construction and installation of a headstone themselves. It is necessary to obtain permission before erecting headstones, but the funeral directors will arrange this also.
Burial where the deceased has no means
If someone dies without the means to pay for burial and if this person has no traceable next of kin, it is the responsibility of the Department of Social Protection or local authority to ensure that the person is buried in a dignified manner that does not impinge on public health or public decency. The Department or local authority will also be liable for the charges and costs involved in doing so.
Exhumation of the remains of deceased people
It is only in strict circumstances that exhumation occurs. Some examples of situations where an exhumation of interred remains from a burial ground might be required or take place include:
- For family reasons (if the family of the deceased person requests that the remains be moved to another burial ground, another part of the country or abroad)
- For public health reasons (for example, if a graveyard or cemetery is being moved)
- When a court orders an exhumation as part of a criminal investigation
At all times during the process, due regard for respect to the deceased person, other interred remains in the burial ground or graveyard and privacy of the family and friends of the deceased person is protected.
Burial at sea
The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has developed guidelines for those considering burial at sea. These guidelines are based on previous experience and seek to prevent distressing situations, such as where a body is returned to shore.
The guidelines recommend that you should consider the scattering of the ashes at sea rather than burial.
In the event of burial, the guidelines make recommendations in relation to such matters as location of the burial, design and construction of the coffin and preparation of the deceased.
See 'Where to apply' below for contact details of the Irish Maritime Administration within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
The cost of buying a burial plot varies. If you hire funeral directors to arrange the purchase for you, they will indicate how much the burial plot costs as part of the overall expense of a funeral.
How to apply
If you wish to purchase a burial plot, you should start by contacting your local authority for contact details.
Your local authority may also be able to help if you want to start or join a voluntary cemetery maintenance group or apply for grants for such a group.
Where to apply
For all matters related to burial plots or graveyards in general, contact your local authority.
For further information on burial at sea, contact the Irish Maritime Administration at the following address: