With capacity at Illaunamanagh cemetery filling up rapidly, Clare County Council has moved to extend the graveyard to the adjoining site that is presently leased to allotment holders.

The council’s director of rural development, Leonard Cleary, attended the recent Shannon Municipal District meeting to outline the local authority’s plans. A priority, according to Mr Cleary, is to identify a new site in Shannon for the allotment owners and to ensure that their needs are met.

Work will commence on site by April 2019, in the meantime, the council is conducting a survey and trial holes at Illaunamanagh to ensure the suitability of the ground for burials. Designs will be carried out in June to complement the existing graveyard and to integrate the two sites on either side of the hill at Illaunamanagh Point. By September the process will advance to the Part 8 planning stage which involves a public consultation and must be approved by the full council. It is hoped to tender for the works on or before January 2019. Mr Cleary said the new section of the graveyard should be ready for use by June 2019. During this process, the needs of the allotment holders will be taken on board.

On a visit to the allotments, we met with a number of people who have worked hard to get the best out of their gardens. For some, this will be their third move as they started off on the site owned by Shannon Development adjacent to Bothar Mór, opposite the Old Lodge. From there they were moved to a space behind Ballycasey Craft Centre and then onto the present site at Illaunamanagh Point. Each move meant starting all over again to prepare and cultivate the soil before planting and growing their own vegetables and fruit. Moving to another site will be difficult for some allotment gardeners and those we spoke to are generally resigned to the move and agree that they will probably never have a better location than where they are now.

At the recent Municipal District meeting, Muirioch Shannon, of the local authority’s design office, acknowledged that it will be difficult for the council to replicate the existing site for allotments owners. Mr Shannon said it is hoped to have the site selection process in place by July. He explained that setting out of individual allotments will depend on the size of the new site. By around October, the council will move to vacate the existing allotments. Weather permitting, Mr Shannon expects that the construction of the new allotments location will be ready in time for next year’s growing season.

He also gave details of a survey of the allotments on 27th April which found that there are 47 plots, 19 have been fully cultivated but 14 plots have had no work done on them at all. However, he also cautioned that some gardeners may have been put off due to the very wet year to date. Mr Shannon did acknowledge that there is a demand for allotment plots given that around 60% of the existing plots are in regular use. He also commented that there has been no coherent management of the existing site and suggested that a committee is set up to coordinate with the council and to avail of funding. As regards identifying a suitable location, the criteria are that it should be accessible from the public road, have suitable ground conditions, access to a water supply and preferably be in a secluded place away from passing pedestrians.

Commenting on the reports, Cllr Gerry Flynn noted that the graveyard and the allotments opened in 2009 and while there is 60% usage of the allotments there is almost 100% usage of the graveyard. The council’s director of services, Leonard Cleary, stated that there is enough capacity at Illaunamanagh prior to the extension being made available but he was unable to state the exact number of graves available. Cllr Gerry Flynn said he had counted 70 double plots remaining. With Shannon now averaging about 55 deaths per year, he said there was concern that the graveyard is filling up.

In an aside, Cllr Pat McMahon is concerned that Lemanagh graveyard, which was purchased during the time when his father was a councillor, is also nearing capacity. “Thankfully,” said Cllr McMahon, “we were able to provide spaces for the people of Shannon Town when they had no graveyard of their own. We were happy to facilitate that and I’d love to be in a position to get an extension to Lemanagh now.”