Northern Ireland news

Family in England lose appeal to engrave standalone Irish language tribute on mother's headstone

Mrs Keane's family had wanted the headstone to read "In ár gcroíthe go deo" ("In our hearts forever") without an accompanying English translation. Picture from Keane family/BBC
John Monaghan

A FAMILY in England have lost a challenge to have an Irish language tribute engraved on their late mother's headstone.

A judge said that the phrase 'In ár gcroíthe go deo' (In our hearts forever) was not permitted without an accompanying translation on the headstone of Irish woman Margaret Keane, who died in 2018 and is buried in Exhall near Coventry.

Judge Stephen Eyre, QC, chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry, said there was a risk that the phrase could be "seen as a political statement" given the "passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic".

A memorial with the phrase and a translation was approved, according to the BBC.

Margaret Keane died in 2018 and is buried near Coventry. Picture from Keane family/BBC

Mrs Keane and her husband Bernie were both born in the Republic but later made a new life in Britain, remaining active members of the GAA and proud of their Irish background.

The parochial church council of St Giles, which owns the cemetery grounds, had marginally backed the proposed memorial with a Celtic Cross and GAA emblems, but a Diocesan Advisory Committee then recommended it did not proceed.

A compromise was found over the Celtic Cross, but Caroline Newey, Mrs Keane's daughter, lodged an appeal with the Church of England's consistory court after no agreement could be reached on the Irish language inscription. She argued that including English would "overcomplicate and crowd" the memorial.

Judge Eyre said: "There is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would, of itself, be seen as a political statement."

He added that a standalone Irish language tribute would be "unintelligible to all but a small minority of readers" in "English speaking Coventry".

Another daughter, Bernadette Martin, said the court's decision was "devastating" and had "suspended the grieving process". She said the family did not have the option to appeal and would accept the ruling.

"Our Irish is not political. It is much more sentimental than that. We did not feel we were making any statement, other than love for our mother."

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