Graveyard group scolded by local priest

Attending a special event at the Dougher Cemetery in Lurgan
Attending a special event at the Dougher Cemetery in Lurgan

A local priest publicly admonished members of a group for not asking parish’s permission to erect monuments in a graveyard they had spent months sprucing up.

Fr Andrew McMahon wrote in two pages of the St Peter and St Paul’s Parish Bulletin castigating the group for erecting memorials without discussing it with the parish.

Fr McMahon, who is acting parish administrator in the absence of Monsignor Aidan Hamill, said that while he praised the group for cleaning up the Dougher, he wanted to ‘outline my concerns’ and ‘correct misconceptions’ about the Dougher event which took place Sunday week ago.

Organised by the Friends of Dougher, Monsignor Raymond Murray had been invited to a blessing at the graveyard but pulled out at the last minute.

Fr McMahon said that he had planned to publicly thank the volunteers in November: “Unknown to the parish or myself, however, another initiative had been taken which had set out to identify the restoration work with a prominent public cause, with important local connections, but with no obvious relationship to the Dougher and those buried there,” he said and added the placing of monuments, the association of the cemetery with ‘this public cause’ and the dedication event had not been discussed with the parish or trustees. “I take strong exception to sweeping remarks that the parish had somehow ‘abandoned the Dougher’ or that the clergy had ‘turned their backs’ on the deceased interred there,” he said.

Jim McIlmurray of the Historical Dougher Cemetery Group said: “The ‘Prominent Public Cause’ referred to was the attendance in the cemetery of those who became known as ‘The Hooded Men of 1971’ whose attendance at an event held in Lurgan on the 8th of May of this year, generated the funding to erect these memorials in memory of those people from Lurgan buried in unmarked graves, another to victims of the Potato Blight, and one to those people of the parish who were buried in unconsecrated ground close to the cemetery. As these three memorials were in memory of past residents of Lurgan, it was deemed fitting to invite those whose presence secured and personally funded the memorials to be unveiled.”