Burial grounds (cemeteries) in Ireland are the responsibility of the local authorities, who operate many of them and appoint a registrar or caretaker for each of their burial ground 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 in Ireland 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.
Regulations issued by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to each local authority govern the siting and specifications of burial grounds. If a local authority or local group decides to either extend an existing burial ground or establish a new one, the Chief/County Medical Officer, the Engineer and the Planning Officer of that authority decide whether the location is suitable on the basis of proximity to other buildings and road infrastructure and the capacity for the land to be drained.
The regulations also set out technical specifications for burial grounds. For example, the front boundary wall of a burial ground must be set at least seven metres in from the road to allow visitors to the site to park their cars. A margin of at least one metre inside the boundary wall of each burial ground must be allowed for and it is suggested that this margin be planted. There should be a passageway of at least one metre in width between rows of grave spaces.
The regulations provide that grave spaces must be clearly and permanently marked, such as with numbers, to facilitate the location of an individual grave at any time. Grave spaces have to be at least nine feet long by four feet wide or at least six feet long by three feet wide in the case of children under twelve years of age. At the time of the first interment or burial at a grave space, it should be sunk to a depth of at least eight feet or to a lesser depth as decided by the County Medical Officer if the sub-soil does not allow for a depth of eight feet.
It is permissible to reopen a grave in order to bury a member of the same family, but a space of at least one foot above the previous burial must be left. Generally, it is possible to bury three to four persons in each grave space.
Caretakers may also be employed by the local authority to maintain the graveyard, though 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.
Many local authorities offer the further incentive of the best kept burial ground grant, which is awarded to groups who are judged by the local authority to have best maintained the burial grounds in their area.
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. Headstones/memorials are generally subject to a maximum height of seven feet.
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.
It is only in strict circumstances that exhumation occurs in Ireland. Some examples of situations where an exhumation of interred remains from a burial ground might be required or take place include:
At all times during the process, due regard for respect to the deceased person, other interred remains in the burial ground/graveyard and privacy of the family and friends of the deceased person is protected.
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.
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.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.