STAFF cuts at Laois County Council are being blamed for the erratic opening hours of the St Peter and Paul’s Cemetery in Portlaoise.
In a statement to the Leinster Express, the council explained that the opening hours for the main gate in Portlaoise Cemetery are 9am to 4pm Monday through to Thursday, and 9am to 3pm on Friday. The cemetery is closed on Saturday, except for funerals. It is opened on Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
The statement went on to confirm that staff cuts have had an impact on opening hours.
“The opening of the cemetery on Sundays is facilitated by the Cemetery Committee, who do so on a voluntary basis. The pedestrian gates are open at all times. The caretaker opens the cemetery on week days, in the event that he is on leave, the cemetery is usually opened by another member of council staff.
“In this scenario, it is not always possible to adhere strictly to the opening hours, however the gates are opened as soon as staff are able to arrange same. This has become an issue in recent times due to staff reductions,” said the council.
In last week’s Leinster Express Mr Ronald Rice, claimed that the gates have not been opened on time and closed early. He also alleged that on one Sunday, the cemetery remained closed all day.
“In recent weeks the gates have note been opened on time in the mornings and on occasion have been closed early in the evenings, and last Sunday, to the best of my knowledge, the gates remained closed all day.
“Sunday in particular is the day most people take the opportunity to visit and tend to the graves of their loved ones, and access by car is vital to those people who may be less mobile due to either age or infirmity,” he said.
Mr Rice said that his 78-year-old father has difficulty walking to and from the family plot.
“Being realtively fit and agile having to walk to and from the family plot which is a total distance of about one quarter of a mile, is for me a minor inconvenience but for my 78 year old father walking with the aid of a stick, it presents a greater challenge. I can imagine that for the more elderly and less abled it is even more of a challenge and a cause of some distress,” he said.
He also alleged that his sister had phoned the council and was told to put her concerns in writing, but her letter had gone unanswered and the irregular opening and closing times continued.
“The opening and closing times are clearly stated on a sign inside the gates of the cemetery for all to see, and should be adhered to,” he said.
He urged other members of the public to voice their concerns with County Hall.