Anne Phelan seeks regulation of burials

Carlow/Kilkenny Labour Deputy Ann Phelan told the Dáil she wishes to see the situation changed where anyone who wishes to have a loved one cremated has to drive to Dublin.

Carlow/Kilkenny Labour Deputy Ann Phelan told the Dáil she wishes to see the situation changed where anyone who wishes to have a loved one cremated has to drive to Dublin.

Speaking on a Private Members’ Bill seeking the establishment of a self-financing Burial and Cremation Regulatory Authority, she said she was quite amazed to find this area was not on a statutory footing.

“Local authorities have responsibility for graveyards and graveyard maintenance,” she said. “We have come a long way from a situation where benevolent farmers gave fields to villages to be used as burial plots. I was quite surprised to find there are currently no barriers to entry and no licensing of an industry responsible for the burial and cremation of up to 30,000 people a year.”

There were up to 600 funeral directors in Ireland, of which fewer than 100 operate full-time, she said. Many operated other businesses. People who were recently interviewed quoted problems like funeral directors not having enough staff and incidents of neglect, misconduct and, perhaps more worryingly, unqualified people carrying out specific technical and important duties like embalming.

“The varying degrees in standards in practice and facilities tend to have a negative impact on grieving families as their needs are not met,” she said. “At a time such as the passing of a loved one it is simply not good enough to have below par services which cost a substantial amount of money. There was also evidence of invoices which had no itemisations outlined on them and ambiguous invoices being issued. There were reports of hospital and mortuary staff being petitioned by funeral companies to encourage business.”

Perhaps it is time that we decided on a national policy, she said.

“I was startled to find that previous Governments had a lack of policy on this issue.”