Families planning court action against Cork City Council over graveyard security

Families planning court action against Cork City Council over graveyard security

Some of the damage done to headstones and graves at St Catherine’s Cemetery, Kilcully by vandals in January of least year. Picture: Jim Coughlan

A YEAR after the devastating vandalism at Kilcully graveyard, City Hall faces legal challenges for failing to upgrade security at the cemetery at an earlier stage.

At a public meeting led by the Kilcully Community Action Group in January 2020 following a spate of criminal damage at the graveyard, it was revealed that in February 2013 Cork City Council passed a motion to appoint additional security features at four cemeteries in the city, including Kilcully, following a number of previous incidents.

The minutes from the meeting state that: “Installation of CCTV cameras with voice-over facilities and 24/7 monitoring is being advanced at all four cemeteries at present and should be completed within 6-8 weeks.

“Cameras will be positioned at the entrances to all cemeteries and at other selected locations within each cemetery.

“This security measure will act as a deterrent to youths entering the cemeteries after dusk along with providing continuous surveillance from dusk to dawn, a back-up patrol service will respond to any incidents detected and will call on the services of the gardaí should that be necessary.” Security at Kilcully was not upgraded until early last year, after the incidents of vandalism.

Speaking to The Echo, a member of the Kilcully Community Action Group said the families feel they now have no other choice but to pursue legal action in a bid to secure funding to repair the damaged graves.

“The families are in progress of seeking legal advice from Mary Toher (Vincent Toher & Company Solicitors).” The spokesperson said in the region of €20,000 worth of damages were caused as a result of the vandalism and that the Action Group has just €3,700 to divide amongst the affected families.

This includes funds raised from a GoFundMe campaign and through money collected from nine councillor’s ward funds.

The spokesperson said: “We have done everything to avoid court proceedings but the families are now in progress of seeking legal advice.” Twenty individual cases are expected to be taken against City Hall.

The spokesperson said they believe City Hall was negligent in not carrying out all the security upgrades in 2013.

“We do strongly believe that City Hall failed in their duty of care. They failed miserably.

“Not only did they fail the affected families, but they failed every person who is buried out in Kilcully graveyard,” the spokesperson continued.

“The families and the group are going to fight this until the bitter end. We’re very confident that we’ll win,” the spokesperson continued.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Cork City Council said that in 2013 the Council “installed CCTV at four of its cemeteries including at St Catherine’s Cemetery”.

“The system installed did not have voice over or remote monitoring but did record 24 hour activity/movement at the cemeteries if needed at any stage.

“It was not deemed necessary to have remote monitoring due to the very low level of vandalism,” the spokesperson continued.

Cork City Council acknowledged the distress caused to the affected families but said that it is not responsible for damage caused to private property.

“The damage that occurred last year at St Catherine’s was a cause of considerable stress to families of loved ones buried at the graveyard.

“It is the Council’s view that such damage would have been caused in this particular instance, regardless of the level of security.

“Whilst acknowledging the upset caused, the Council is not in a position to be responsible for private property (headstones) in any of its thirteen cemeteries,” the spokesperson said.

In September 2020, a 34-year-old man was jailed for causing criminal damage to headstones in Kilcully graveyard between November 30, 2019 and January 3, 2020.

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