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Moves to remedy ‘distressing’ scenes at Kernan Cemetery as apology issued to families

Members of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council are to meet at Kernan Cemtery next week to discuss the best way forward for plans to develop a network of paths with a council director apologising for the “stress and anxiety” caused by the current situation.

At a meeting of Council’s governance, resources and strategy committee on Wednesday, members were advised a design team to develop the business plan, obtain all necessary approvals, consult with members of the public and develop detailed tender designs and specification for a network of paths to section C, at Kernan Cemetery is expected to be appointed in the week commencing March 14.

To help inform the business case, officers proposed a meeting was arranged between local councillors and the design team on site on March 22.

The meeting will allow both councillors and the design team to put forward their views which will inform the business case, costing exercise and the delivery programme as well as exploring the potential to phase the works, which could accelerate the delivery programme.

In line with Council policy, section C of the cemetery, which opened in 2018, uses a plastic mesh as walkway instead of a solid footpath. However, the ground at the cemetery is not as firm as had been hoped and this has resulted in some distressing scenes and numerous complaints from members of the public.

Speaking at a meeting of the committee, Alderman Stephen Moutray said he had visited for cemetery for the first time 10 days ago and described it as a “lovely, well maintained cemetery” but said the issues with section C have “really troubled” him.

“On the day, workers were out doing what they could to alleviate the problem on a temporary basis but I can understand the emotional aspects of this,” he said.

“If I had someone buried in that section of the cemetery with the amounts of rainfall there have and continue to be, I would have very great concerns and I want to know when we will be in a position to have this remedied.

“I am not even concerned about what it costs this council to have this remedied because it is dealing with people’s very raw emotions and we need to get a solution very quickly and we all need, from the top down, to be very focused on getting that solution.”

Council’s head of estates and asset management, Jonathan Hayes said a “detailed report” will be brought to committee in May presenting the options to remedy the problems in section C and will include a detailed programme of “physical works” that will commence on site.

Councillor Julie Flaherty said she agreed with Alderman Moutray and told the committee she is very proud of the cemetery and wants to see the issues resolved as possible.

Councllior Flaherty also called for the site meeting to be extended to all councillors who wish to attend.

“It has been made clear there is to be a site visit and I think this is very important that is extended out to others, I am not a Craigavon DEA member but I certainly want to be there,” she said.

“I think it is important that any member who wants to see what is going on here has the opportunity to do so and meets whoever we need to meet to get this problem sorted.”

Mr Hayes confirmed the invite to the site meeting would be extended to all members and Council’s strategic director of neighbourhood services, Sharon O’Gorman said in the “immediate short term” the situation will be monitored rigorously.

“We will take all steps that we can through the staff in the department to address the situation and we recognise the unsatisfactory nature and apologise for the distress and anxiety caused,” she said.

Bringing the debate on the subject to a close the committee’s Vice- Chair, Alderman Kenneth Twyble thanked officers for the work they are doing in “a very emotional area”.

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