graves are being driven over and headstones have been damaged, including those of nuns and a priest, by visitors to St Peter and Paul’s Cemetery unwilling to walk to their family plots.
Following a complaint about the damage to a priest’s tombstone, which was knocked over by a car, the committee decided to close the carpark of the graveyard at weekends when the caretaker was not on duty.
Chairperson of the committee, Cllr Kathleen O’Brien is now opening the gates herself for Sunday visitors. She emphasised that the graveyard is open at all times to pedestrians, and says people are being penalised because of a few.
“I saw a car drive along the grass where nobody should drive down. There are pathways between graves, whre the caretaker put stones, they moved the stones and drove down, actually damaging some graves. When I say something to them they are quite abusive. It is a difficult and sensitive situation. I got a call to keep the cemetery closed on Sundays, because the priest’s grave was damaged. I closed it, but people are being penalised because of a few,” she said at a recent Portlaoise Town Council meeting. #
In the coming weeks, the council will be improving the entrance, making new footpaths and adding new plots. A long term plan to add parking at the area where outdoor Mass is held, will depend on more money.
Cllr Jerry Lodge had raised a motion for Laois County Council to enforce correct driving in the cemetery, the largest in Laois.
“When I saw where the nuns are buried, a huge stone has been moved. It was drawn to my attention by a worker, that people are driving on the grass, they are acting irresponsibly, reversing into tombstones and breaking them. Nobody is coming along and saying ‘I’ll pay for that’. I want to make sure the council accepts its responsibility to implement the correct procedures,” he said.
Chairperson of Portlaoise Town Council Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said the drivers had “absolutely no respect”.
“I think it’s dreadful, I don’t know how the council can address it,” she said.
Cllr Willie Aird did not want the matter left to the council.
“They might say ‘you can’t drive in any more’. This has to be addressed delicately. People have got used to driving in, if they haven’t got good mobility, it is a long way from the entrance gate to the new part. I see people driving up bringing elderly people, I don’t think you can deprive them of that. We should sit down and discuss this. I don’t think we should spoil it for everyone,” he said, suggesting a meeting with Laois County Council.
Cllr Caroline Dwane urged anyone who was fit to park and walk in.
“I was in the graveyard, I witnessed myself a person who drove up the pathway for pedestrians, and ploughed into the kerbs,” she said.