Burials and burial grounds


Burial grounds (cemeteries) are the responsibility of the local authority. Many of them are operated by local authorities who appoint a registrar or caretaker to manage the sale of plots. Parishes and local groups also operate burial grounds. If you want to purchase a burial plot, you can contact your local authority to get contact details.

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.

Purchasing a burial plot

Many funeral directors offer to handle the purchase of burial plots as part of their package of funeral services. Or, you can contact your local authority and they can tell you how to purchase a plot.

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.

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.


It is possible to design a headstone yourself or hire a sculptor to make it for you. The funeral directors you employ will arrange the construction and installation of the headstone. 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. The Department or local authority will also be liable for the charges and costs involved in doing so.

Looking after burial grounds

Graveyards are maintained either by caretakers hired by the local authority or by volunteer groups. If you want to start or join a voluntary cemetery maintenance group your local authority may be able to help you.

These groups are often supported by burial ground maintenance grants. This grant helps towards the cost of the groups' activities, which may include grass cutting, planting, weed control and the maintenance of gates and walls.

Burial at sea

The Department of Transport 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 cremation and scattering the ashes at sea rather than burial.

In the event of burial, the guidelines make recommendations about matters such as:

  • Location of the burial
  • Design and construction of the coffin
  • Preparation of the deceased

See ‘Further information' below for contact details of the Irish Maritime Directorate within the Department of Transport.


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 take place include:

  • If the family of the deceased person requests that the remains be moved to another burial ground
  • 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.


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.

Further information

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 Directorate at the following address:

Irish Maritime Directorate

Department of Transport

Leeson Lane,
Dublin 2
D02 TR60

Page edited: 11 April 2023