City officials have remained firm on the abolition of Sunday burials in the city, despite a unanimous call from councillors to reinstate the service.
Director of Services Ciaran Hayes made the decision in late December to discontinue the provision of burials at graveyards in the city on Sunday, claiming the service was causing Galway County Council to breach employee work conditions.
This issue has been a contentious one over the past number of months and the controversy over the move continued at a meeting of the council on Monday night, when Cllr Ollie Crowe tabled a motion demanding the reinstatement of the seven-day burial service.
He said that a six-day service, with only one burial on each side of the city per day, was “totally unacceptable” and highlighted the financial implications for families who could be forced to pay €500 extra per night to cover the cost of reposing the deceased at a funeral home.
The motion, which called on officials to “take all necessary steps” to retain the service “in the interests of protecting a tradition which has existed in our city since before the inception of this local authority”, was then unanimously supported by all 15 councillors in the chamber.
Cllr Crowe then urged the council to confirm that the Sunday burial tradition would be continued “in the interests of complying with the overwhelming wishes and desire of the citizens of our city”, but officials responded by saying it was not possible to do this at present as the local authority did not have a full complement of staff and would be in breach of the law by requiring existing employees to cover the seven-day service.
When councillors hit back by claiming that officials have failed to pursue requests for extra staff from the department, City Manager Joe O’Neill said he was “sick to the teeth of begging for staff” and that Galway City Council was “probably the most sparsely staffed local authority in the country”, having seen a reduction of 100 employees over the last four years.
It was also highlighted that areas such as Dublin and Cork do not offer Sunday burial but this was not enough to appease the councillors, who instructed the council to prepare a full report on all options pertaining to the burial service to come before them at the upcoming February meeting.