Northern Ireland news

Mother accuses cemetery committee of showing 'disrespect' towards grieving families after personal items dumped from graves

Michelle Connors has expressed her anger after personal belongings were removed from graves at Hannahstown Cemetery in Belfast at the weekend. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Seanín Graham

A MOTHER who visits the grave of her teenage son three times a day has spoken of her distress after personal belongings and wreaths were removed following his first anniversary.

West Belfast woman Michelle Connors posted a video on social media at the weekend showing skips filled with fresh flowers and memorial photographs at Hannahstown cemetery.

Her 16-year-old son Pearse, a gifted footballer, died by suicide last January.

Pearse Connors (16) died last January. He played for St Oliver Plunkett FC.

Ms Connors was inundated with messages from outraged families demanding an explanation from a committee responsible for the cemetery as to why they destroyed their personal belongings.

In a statement released yesterday evening, the Hannahstown Parish Private Management Committee confirmed they had received "some complaints" since Saturday and issued an apology.

"We will endeavour to respond to these issues and where we made mistakes we unreservedly apologise," they said.

However, they added that notices were erected in December and February regarding the removal of "unauthorised items" due to concerns about the cemetery's "tidiness" and condition.. They also advised that "removal of any remaining items will be completed by end of February".

But Mrs Connors branded their actions as "disrespectful".

"My 16-year-old son died by suicide a year ago. I’m up three or four times a day and up late at night, it’s just my thing," she told The Irish News.

"It was his anniversary two weeks ago, his friends had left fresh wreaths and wee memories. I went up at 10am on Saturday morning and they had taken everything off all the graves.

"I had to go into a bin and take my child’s photograph and fresh flowers out - and I put them back on his grave.The Crematorium part where people have their plaques and photograph were all bashed to smithereens. They were all dumped - where-ever they could find a spot they were dumped. There was no respect whatsoever.

"When I put out the video, it went viral. It hurt a lot of people. One of women who responded to me said she had just buried one of her parents on Thursday and all the flowers were binned two days later.

"I get that they don’t want old flowers at the grave. The families look after the graves. It’s a really well maintained cemetery so they should let people look after their own graves."

The cemetery committee thanked the volunteers who gave their time in the "tidy up" works as part of a maintenance programme.

"The purpose of the terms of the agreements with leaseholders is not to restrict the freedom of leaseholders but rather to ensure that our Parish cemeteries and columbarium will be a testimony to our faith in the resurrection and our reverence and respect for all our dead."

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