A recommendation to waive burial fees for children at council-owned cemeteries only has been shot down.
It was in April that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council agreed to the move in the absence of a Stormont Executive, following the proposal of Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty.
It was to waive the costs of burial of any child under the age of 18 and living within the borough for interment within a council-owned cemetery.
The change took effect from the start of June, but April’s meeting also sought information on the costs and practicalities of extending the scheme to cover all cemeteries.
Four options were brought back.
Three centred on a potential subsidy and reimbursement at private cemeteries, based on the original £52 fee charged by council.
But the preferred and recommended option was to keep the system that would apply only to waiving costs at council cemeteries.
However, this idea was not accepted and officers were ordered to rethink.
Sinn Fein councillor Catherine Nelson proposed that burials should be free for all – and it was a proposal which found favour.
She welcomed the move after the meeting.
“I was disappointed that the initial recommendation was not inclusive but delighted that my proposal was supported by all,” said councillor Nelson.
“Families who lose a child are dealing with loss and grief few of us could comprehend.
“No family should be treated differently as a result of the cemetery they choose to bury their child in.
“Nor should any families be forced to choose a council owned graveyard due to financial constraints.
“I proposed a scheme be established to subsidise burials of children at the same level as the council scheme.
“Officers will now go back to the drawing board on this matter.
“In the interim I will be writing to local churches and chapels to encourage them to waive the fees for child burials.”
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist councillor Julie Flaherty has urged Secretary of State Karen Bradley to gift Northern Ireland a Children’s Funeral Fund – in line with England, Scotland and Wales.
“I am immensely proud that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council was the first to waive child burial fees in council cemeteries,” said councillor Flaherty.
“I am immensely proud that my Ulster Unionist colleagues around the province took this special cause on and are bringing it through all their own councils.
“This is all that we as councillors can do at present. As is customary now, local councils are leading the way. Now, it’s over to the Secretary of State.
“A Children’s Funeral Fund for NI, as is in place in Wales, Scotland and England, is within the gift of the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley MP.
“I have yet to receive a meeting with her, and continue to receive holding letters informing me that an Executive Minister is required to sign off this legislation-utterly disgraceful.
“I am well aware that there is no Stormont, no Executive and no Minister. The legislation is there, ready to go- just needing a signature. Her signature will do.
“Councils have proven themselves with this issue. Local government has stepped up to the plate and now would be a good time for Ms Bradley to do the same.”
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