Clonmel Council will not back down on cemetery car ban

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St. Patrick's cemetery Clonmel

It's planned to close the gates of St. Patrick's Cemetery in Clonmel to vehicles from the end of September


Plans to block vehicles from entering St.Patrick's Cemetery in Clonmel will be proceeded with despite mounting outrage over the proposal.
Members of Clonmel Borough District council were told on Tuesday night that the move to put up barriers to prevent cars from entering the cemetery will go ahead on health and safety grounds for staff and the public.
A petition with over 5,000 signatories was handed in as protestors vented their outrage over the proposal.
Sinead Carr,Town manager said she and the Town Engineer would be held personally responsible and would have the threat of jail hanging over them if they did take action to protect council staff at the cemetery and the public.They had a responsibility under health and safety regulations to take such action and clearly outlined that the decision was an executive one and was not a decision for elected representatives.
Emotions ran high outside and inside the Town Hall on Tuesday evening as protestors made their feelings known to officials and elected representatives.The meeting started at 4.30 and for the next hour anda half the protestors shouted "No Barriers","They took St. Michaels, they took the Army Barracks , they will not take St.Patrick's" before three of them were left in to speak at 6pm. The street protest could still be heard as a spokesperson, Ann Marie Whelan, slammed the decision of the council to do a U-turn on a 2015 decision to allow vehicular access.She attacked elected representatives on their "silence" on leaving the decision go "unchallenged".The decision showed "sheer disregard" for the people of Clonmel and a lack of empathy for the bereaved.They left to allow a debate take place between officials and members.
When officials and members emerged after the meeting and it became clear to the protestors that the decision to proceed with banning cars stood they angrily shouted "shame on you" repeatedly at officials and elected representatives. 
At the meeting Sinead Carr , Manager said the council would continue with the plan to ban vehicles from the cemetery.
The Town Manager told members that she fully understood how sensitive an issue it was, she and everybody around the table had their own personal experience of just how difficult it was to cope with grief, and the last thing she wanted to do was to compound that with further difficulties..
"If we could have left it as it was we would have done so" said the town manager.It was wrong, she said, that this decision was taken without taking on board the sensitivity of the issue.
She explained that traffic volumes in the cemetery were much higher than what they were in 2015.At the time officials listened to people opposing a car ban and held off because there was inadequate parking facilities.The car parking issue had now been addressed,there was never a committment given in 2015 that they would not come back to the issue in the future as a health and safety issue was involved.
Sinead Carr said the council had obligations under health and safety and they were falling well below that in relation to the cemetery.There had been numerous near misses in the cemetery to the staff and members of the public.If something happens she and the town engineer would be criminally liahble and could face jail.
"It is our responsibility to take health and safety seriously.The only reason we are doing hit is from a health and safety perspective and the constrains on the site." said the manager.
She told members that she was responsible for the safety of the staff, the decision was an executive function and not a reserved function for the members to take a decision.She said it was unfair on the dpution to say that elected members said nothing "They have worn a path to my door looking for different solutions" she said.
"If there was any other alternative we would look at it.The last thing I would want to do is upset people .I don't have another option , the gates will be closed.I cannot back off this time," she said.
Cllr.Pat English asked if there could be a compromise and that cars could be left in to the cemetery at certain times of the day.
Cllr.Catherine Careysaid she believed this issue was put to bed in 2015.The people of Clonmel had access to the cemetery for generations .
She said it was a disgraceful decision and she did not agree with it.There should have been public consultation and there should be no barriers until there was a compromise reached.
Cllr.Martin Lonergan asked officials if there could be a compromise reached between the officials and the group against the vehicle ban.He rejected the idea that members had been silent on the issue.
"Could we meet them half way" he asked.He wanted to know why the decision was being taken out of the hands of the members.
Cllr.Siobhan Ambrose said she never heard any councillor say they were in favour of the proposal.It was made very clear that this was an executive decision.
Cllr.Andy Moloney said members had not been silent on the matter, councillors had not changed their minds.It was an executive decision.
Cllr.Marie Murphy asked what had changed since 2015 on the issue.
Cllr.Richie Molloy,Mayor said said he had also received a lot of phone calls on the issue from people who were happy with the decision to ban cars.It was now a health and safety issue and very much an operations issue.
"If something serious happens a member of staff or a member of the public who would like to job of having to go and tell the family" said Cllr.Molloy.
Cllr.Molloy said there were genuine people with mobility issues but a lot of the people who drove into the cemetery did not necessarily need to drive in there.Elected members had not been silent on the matter.
The meeting was addressed by Town Manager Sinead Carr after all of themembers spoke.Before leaving the meeting Cllr.Carey said it was a sad day for the people of Clonmel who had not been listened to.
Cllr.Pat English asked if members voted for the gates to be left open what would happen.
Sinead Carr said that would be illegal and would not be allowed because she was bound by health and safety.
"There is no wriggle room on this" said Sinead Carr.
Mayor Cllr Richie Mollow said the officers would meet the group opposed to the ban on vehicles if they wanted to meet in the future.