A Portadown councillor has once again urged the Minister for Communities to introduce an Executive-led Children’s Funeral Fund as soon as possible.
Speaking at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, Councillor Julie Flaherty stressed the importance of keeping this issue in the spotlight and thanked councillors and officers for their “unwavering support”.
In August, Council’s Chief Executive Roger Wilson wrote a letter to Finance Minister Conor Murphy seeking the introduction of the Executive’s Children’s Funeral Fund.
Minister Murphy’s response set out his support for the introduction of the fund and explained Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey is “in the lead in bringing this benefit into force”.
“I understand new legislation will be required which is currently being developed and which Minister Hargey will bring to the Executive as soon as it is drafted,” said the Finance Minister.
“In the first instance Minister Hargey will seek to identify the necessary funding from within the DfC budget. If additional funding is needed, the allocation of resources will require Executive agreement.”
Responding to this letter and noting her party colleague, Rosemary Barton MLA has recently raised the issue in the Assembly, Councillor Flaherty called on those who could to encourage Minister Hargey to introduce this legislation as soon as possible.
“We are pushing this and I want to thank all members for their unwavering support for the fund,” said Councillor Flaherty.
“I want to thank Council’s Chief Executive Roger Wilson for writing the letter. I know it can be frustrating writing letters all the time but this is all we can do as establishing this fund is not within our gift.
“It is within the gift of the Minister for Communities so I appeal to her to implement this fund forthwith and I implore anyone with more influence to try and apply some pressure to ensure this fund is implemented.
“I appreciate these letters and have a folder full of them. I appreciate the ongoing commitment and support of both ministers and appreciate that Council is always being highly commended for being so active.”
Councillor Flaherty continued: “However, this support from Council was only to be interim support and it does not cover every cemetery so there are parents still missing out on this small gesture.
“We need to get this done and it is over to the Ministers to do so but I do want to place on record my thanks for the Chief Executive and our cemetery staff who carry out such a lovely job and have to implement the scheme we have.”
Lord Mayor Glenn Barr thanked Councillor Flaherty for persevering with this campaign and said it “really does show how local government can bring about change”.
DUP Councillor Margaret Tinsley also spoke in support of Councillor Flaherty and told the chamber a recent experience showed her just how valued this fund was to those who need it.
“All along I have been very supportive of this campaign but I had never had to experience it myself,” said Councillor Tinsley.
“In the past month I was dealing with a family and words can’t describe how much this little bit of support meant to that family.
“It is only when you experience that you realise what this council is able to offer in terms of support and it was very much appreciated at this traumatic time.
“I just want to wholeheartedly support Councillor Flaherty and everything she has been doing to appeal to those Ministers in the Assembly.
“It is only when witnessed first hand that you really do appreciate what that little bit of support can mean to a family.”