Couple who lost baby slam council over graves ‘mess’

Kernan Cemetery. INPT32-230.
Kernan Cemetery. INPT32-230.

A couple who laid their 19-month-old son to rest in Kernan Cemetery 26 years ago say they have been let down by the council, as the grass versus surround wrangle over the graveyard continues.

The council plans to enforce a grass-only policy in section B while just across the path in section A surrounds are allowed.

Ellen and Martin Hanna, from Mullavilly, lost their second child, Graeme, to leukaemia in 1991 and chose Kernan specifically because it was a lawn cemetery.

Said Mrs Hanna, “Because he was only a wee baby, we wanted something that was more like a park. We asked our minister and the funeral director, and got some information and Kernan seemed the perfect place.”

Despite the double fees for the grave, which the couple had to pay as they were officially in the Armagh council area, they laid their son to rest there.

However, in time, surrounds started to appear in what is now known as Section A, and eventually the couple found out, by chance, that the council had changed the rules and surrounds were allowed in section A but not section B.

“We were horrified,” said Mrs Hanna. “The council never wrote to us to say they were thinking about changing the rules or that they had changed them. We had no correspondence whatsoever.

“I go to the cemetery every day and when I look over at section B and see the grass all neatly cut, I think ‘that’s what we wanted’. It annoys and distresses me greatly every time I am there.

“It’s not the maintenance of it. When you have a child, you do your best for them and even after they have died you still care for them. When I go and clean the headstone I am still caring for Graeme.”

She added, “I would love to meet the people who changed the rules. What did they think I paid my money for? Did they not think I deserved to know what they were doing? I just find it totally amazing.

“The council didn’t enforce the rules at the time. They are totally to blame for this mess.”

Last week, Portadown couple Roy and Cathy Stevenson, whose 15-year-old son Jamie is buried in section B, spoke of their ongoing battle with the council to be allowed to keep a surround.

Mrs Hanna said her heart went out to them. “They want the best for their child, and we want the best for our child. The council has mucked this up and we are all suffering.”

ABC Council declined to comment at this stage.