Judge cites Welsh language as family wins appeal for Irish inscription on headstone
A judge has cited the Welsh language in a case where a family won an appeal to put an Irish inscription on a headstone.
It was ruled by a lower court Margaret Keane’s inscription must carry an English translation, in case passersby thought the Irish Gaelic message was a “political slogan”.
The decision was overturned by Judge Ellis in a ruling at the Court of Arches, the highest appeal court in the Church of England.
This means the way has been cleared for the words “in ár gcroíthe go deo” – meaning “in our hearts forever” – to be written on a gravestone. However, parish records must record the English translation.
The grave at “The Meadow” – a new annex to the older churchyard of St Giles, in the village of Exhall – is still marked by a wooden cross.
Judge Ellis, who also advises the Welsh government on planning matters, said the status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland was similar to that of Welsh in Wales.
He added that he was well versed in the constitutional status of the language in Ireland, adding all the judges found the written submission from Conradh na Gaeilge to be most helpful.
Supporters of the family have said there are five headstones in St Giles that carry Welsh language inscriptions without English translations, as well as some in Hebrew and Latin.
The ruling could make it easier for others who are seeking to have non-English language inscriptions in Church of England administered graveyards.
The academic Seimon Brooks as congratulated the family for its “historic victory”.
He said: “A victory for your family & your community, & many from other backgrounds thank you too, for you have reversed a judgement that put at risk the use of many community languages. Diolch.”
He added: “I have so much respect for the Irish second generation in Britain. Stand up for themselves, don’t take nonsense off bigots, proud of their diasporic identity, look after their culture, stand in solidarity with other minorities. An inspiration for me since my mid-teens.”
Margaret, a local resident for 50 years, worked as a dinner lady in the local school for 26 years, and was a stalwart of the GAA in Coventry and the county of Warwickshire.
The original club was founded as a football and hurling club, and came to provide a great link to the culture and people from home for Irish immigrants.
She received a President’s International Award at a ceremony in Croke Park in 2017, and her husband, Bernie, was a former Provincial president of the GAA in Britain and was a noted hurler.
He and the family wanted Margaret’s memorial to reflect what was important to her, and them, and the community she served: A Celtic Cross, the GAA logo, and the inscription in Irish.
Margaret’s son Vincent told Sean Whelan from RTE: “Mum was very proud of her Irishness, and brought us all up to be Irish, with the girls dancing and me and my brothers playing football. That’s why we wanted the GAA crest and the words “in ár gcroíthe go deo” on the headstone”.
He added: “Everyone you speak too, even down to St Giles church, everyone is full of praise for mum. She worked 26 years in the local school, so even people my age knew her, and they all say the same – this is wrong, why can’t your mum just have what she wants.”
On the social media campaign to support the appeal, which attracted widespread attention, he said: “It’s been very humbling, all the people around the world saying mum should get what she deserves. It’s been absolutely mind-blowing, we never envisaged it would get to where it is now.
“All over the world people have been contacting us to say how wrong it is.
“To lose mum was a shock, but we can’t get past the grieving process going down to the grave and just having a wooden cross to look at. We want the headstone that we can go down to and remember mum by the words that were chosen for her.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.