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Family wins appeal for Irish headstone inscription after three-year battle

The family of Irish-born Margaret Keane have fought to have 'in ár gcroíthe go deo' (in our hearts forever) inscribed on their mother's gravestone in England

A family in England has won an appeal to have their mother's gravestone marked with an inscription in Irish.

Relatives of Margaret Keane, from Athboy, Co Meath, had fought for almost three years to have her final resting place marked with 'In ár gcroíthe go deo' (in our hearts forever).

A Church of England court initially rejected the Irish inscription, claiming it could be "seen as a political statement" given the "passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic".

However, the family won their appeal in the Church of England's Arches Court of Canterbury on Wednesday.

Mrs Keane was buried in grounds owned by St Giles' Church, Exhall, north of Coventry, in July 2018.

The family now hope a Celtic cross bearing the Irish inscription can be placed on her grave in time for St Patrick's Day.

Mrs Keane was senior member of Coventry GAA and received a GAA President's International Award at a ceremony in Croke Park in 2017 for her "lifetime of unselfish service and dedication".

She met her Co Mayo-born husband Bernie at Roger Casement's GAA club in Coventry.

Mrs Keane's daughter Bernadette Martin said the family were "delighted" to win their appeal.

"For us as a family we're just delighted to leave London having got the ruling - we weren't expecting it," she told BBC News NI.

"We're just processing the journey we've been on and we are totally delighted."

The court's judgment overturned a ruling last summer that the inscription could be seen as a "political statement" and said the Irish phrase must be accompanied by an English translation.

The Church of England later said the decision did not reflect its policies.

"The Irish language is an important part of the heritage of the Church of England. It was, after all, Irish-speaking monks in Lindisfarne and beyond who played a central role in establishing the church in what is now England."

Ms Martin told RTÉ Drivetime the family were "a little bit shocked still".

"I think for us, we did this not just for mum - we know that those who follow hopefully won't have to go through this and that we represented the Irishness that mum was so proud of, to the best of our ability," she said.

Zarah Sultana, a Coventry MP, said the judgment was "brilliant news".

She tweeted: "The Keane family were denied an Irish-only inscription on Margaret's headstone in Coventry … but today they won their appeal. Justice is done! Congratulations to the Keane family!"

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