Cremation is an alternative to burial when someone dies. All Christian denominations and most other religions around the world allow cremation. Some religions (for example, Orthodox Judaism and Islam) do not.
There are a number of crematoria in Ireland (see ‘Further information’ below). Access to these cremation facilities is not restricted to people living locally. Anyone may arrange for a cremation to take place in any of these crematoria.
Arranging a cremation
If you wish to arrange a cremation you should contact a funeral director who will ensure that the statutory (or legal) requirements are met. You can read more about this in ‘Rules and Regulations’ below.
Types of Services
There are three kinds of service you can have at a crematorium:
This is for people who want to have a funeral at their church or place of worship. After the church service the coffin is brought to the crematorium and there is a short committal service, similar to what would happen at a cemetery burial.
Full Service Funeral
You can also choose to have a full service at the crematorium. Crematoriums generally have their own chapel on site, and sometimes have a selection of chapels in various sizes. You can have either a religious or a non-religious service.
You can also choose to have no service at all and proceed straight to the cremation.
After the service
After the service, the coffin is taken to the crematorium building. The body is cremated inside the coffin. The coffin must be made of materials than can be safely burned. It is not necessary for items of jewellery to be removed if you do not wish to, but it will not be possible to retrieve them after cremation.
Only one coffin is cremated at a time. The chamber of the cremator is designed to hold one coffin. The only exception to this is if the family requests that a mother and a very young child be cremated together. The ashes you receive will contain the ashes of the coffin as well as the deceased.
From start to finish, a cremation takes about 5-6 hours. The ashes are generally available within a day or two. You can make arrangements through the funeral director or the crematorium for the remains to be buried in the crematorium's garden of remembrance or placed in a columbarium wall. A columbarium wall is a structure that contains small niches to hold urns.
Alternatively, the ashes can be removed in an urn which can be supplied by the funeral director or the crematorium. You can then bury the remains in the family grave or disperse them. If the dispersal is not on private ground, permission should be obtained from the appropriate authority. You can scatter the ashes at sea. The Minister for Transport has the right to make regulations about the burial for human remains at sea, but has not done so at this point. They have voluntary guidelines available for those considering this option.
Rules and regulations
Before cremation can proceed, the doctor that last attended to the deceased must complete a form. The attending doctor is required to decide whether the coroner should be notified of the death.
A medical referee appointed by the crematorium must review this form and confirm they are satisfied that:
- The attending doctor viewed the body before and after death
- The cause of death has been identified
- The case does not need to be referred to the coroner
- There is no reason why the body should not be cremated
There may be difficulties arranging an immediate cremation if the cause of death is unclear. A coroner may in this case complete a Coroner's Cremation Certificate which allows the cremation to go ahead. In some cases, a Garda Superintendent has the power to stop a cremation.
There is currently no specific legislation relating to cremation in Ireland. In the absence of specific legislation many crematoria have developed their own codes of ethics that they choose to follow. Mount Jerome Crematorium, Glasnevin Cemetery and The Island Crematoria have developed a code of ethics with the assistance of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management (ICCM), a UK based organisation. Many other crematoria, such as Shannon Crematorium, are also committed to following this code.
You can look on the website of a crematorium to see if they post the code of ethics they follow, or email them to request more information. Crematoriums also generally have their code of practice on display so that you can view it when you visit.
The most significant difference in cost between burial and cremation will be
if you need to purchase a new grave for the burial. The funeral director's
charges are usually the same.
Water cremation, also known as resomation, is an environmentally friendly alternative to flame cremation. The process mimics the natural process a body goes through in burial, as the body’s cells are broken down into water but in a much shorter timeframe.
Water cremation is now available in Ireland. If this is an option you wish to explore, you should discuss it with your funeral director.