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Families oppose Deansgrange Cemetery cycle path plan – The Irish Times

Twelve years ago, Emily O’Connor was buried beneath the flowers that hung off an old granite wall at Deansgrange Cemetery in south Dublin.

She died from an illness shortly after birth and her parents, Aoife and Denis O’Connor, chose the plot for its privacy and peace.

Now they, along with a growing number of other families who have buried loved ones there, are stepping up their fight against controversial plans to lower the wall and run an upgraded cycle path by the headstones.

“It’s as if they are trying to alter her grave,” said Ms O’Connor, who explained her daughter’s body lies right at the foot of the wall. “They are disturbing her. That’s very hard to think about.”

The infrastructure, should it proceed following a current period of public consultation, will form part of a longer cycle network joining 65 south Dublin schools.

Plans to run part of it through the cemetery came when an alternative route along the main road faltered following strenuous local opposition to anticipated traffic disruption.

Mourning loved ones

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council insists the new proposal is not a “dedicated cycle path” but rather one that offers “better access to the existing area where driving, cycling and walking is a well-established use”.

That, however, does little to ease the concerns of some families. Ms O’Connor said she has not slept properly in weeks since details emerged.

“I wake up every single night. Just the thought of the wall coming down, of being disturbed. The cycle path going through, it being open 24/7,” she said. “This is a place where we go to mourn our loved ones. It’s not a recreational area.

“I would love that.” [elected] councilors to come and stand by the graves and tell us that they think that this is okay.”

The families say the campaign to bring an end to the plan has been gathering support. It has prompted the formation of Deansgrange Respect Our Grief, a loosely formed group of those affected and their supporters. They plan to hold a candlelit vigil at the entrance to the cemetery on Friday, October 14th.

A six-week period of public consultation on the scheme opened in mid-September. When it replaced the initial plan on the Deansgrange Road, the local authority conceded there were sensitivities but that it would be delivered in a “sensitive, tasteful and respectful manner”.

Burial ground

It followed almost two years of public engagement where eight options were considered. It is designed to make the cemetery more “permeable”, according to the local authority, and plans to lower the wall, as well as adding lighting, are in the interest of visibility and safety.

But despite the council’s position, those opposed believe the relative tranquility of a burial ground will be disturbed by an increase in activity the infrastructure is designed to accommodate.

“We are very upset. We buried our dead in the hope that they could rest in peace and that we could mourn them in a dignified fashion,” said Philip Lecane, whose wife Kate died six months after a cancer diagnosis in 2020.

She too is buried beside the proposed infrastructure. He dismissed the suggestion that it would simply support activity that already exists in the cemetery.

With his wife having died during Covid, Mr Lecane explained the difficulty he experienced accessing the hospital. He is still trying to come to terms with her death.

“We just think this is a very ill-thought-out, insensitive proposal,” he said. “We could really do without having to fight the council on this, but we will.”

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said it is important that, through the public consultation process, “we can assess the design and make whatever changes may be needed” to ensure privacy and dignity.

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