Ban on photographs of headstones plan

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A ban on photographing headstones in council-run cemeteries looks set to be enforced after concern was expressed about a headstone survey.

It follows a request to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council from a group who asked for permission to conduct a photographic survey of headstones within its cemeteries.

However, the council committee dealing with the matter have recommended refusing permission after seeking legal advice.

At a recent meeting some councillors had expressed concern that pictures of local headstones online may be used for criminal gains.

It is understood the initial project, at the request of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, was to aid a global family ancestry project.

Church representative Brian Monroe had made a formal request to Kernan Cemetery office seeking permission to conduct the survey.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in conjunction with Brigham Young University in Utah, provide a web-based app with GPS for headstone positioning and a website – BillionGraves.Com – which collects, organises and displays gravestones throughout the world.

Local Sinn Fein Cllr Gemma McKenna explained that, while the council owned the cemetery, the families owned the headstones, and she said permission would need to be sought from family members who may not want the photographs to go on the 
internet.

She said council “needed to be careful in dealing with this request” as it was “a very sensitive issue”.

Councillor McKenna was told by a council official that people could request to have a photo removed; it had been highlighted that is was a public cemetery and anyone could come in and take pictures.

But Councillor McKenna reiterated that the issue was with the council granting permission for the pictures to be taken and published worldwide.

She was worried people could have concerns with this.

A Council official revealed that while it did not appear to be possible to prevent this type of activity taking place, they were currently seeking legal advice regarding what powers they could use.

They were also looking at what other local authorities were doing in relation to this growing activity which was a matter of deep concern.

A further report would be brought back when they were in receipt of a legal opinion.

The matter is due before the full council on November 23.