A bittersweet victory for Julie

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) will be the first Council in Northern Ireland to waive burial fees for children.

The move has been welcomed by Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty - who proposed the step last month.

It is a bittersweet move for the local councillor as this week marks what would have been her son’s seventh birthday - the youngster passed away five years ago.

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Her call has been echoed at council’s across Northern Ireland with a number of her party colleagues tabling similar proposals on their own councils,

Cllr Flaherty said, “This is a very bittersweet week for me. This week, our Jake would be turning seven years of age, it is also five years since we lost him from our family.

“It is very heartening to have received such support from Council, and from people across the Borough, and indeed across Northern Ireland since I first raised this in April.

“I am over the moon that it has been able to move through the process so smoothly, but as you can imagine, it has been quite difficult too.

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“This week and this announcement marks the beginning of movement here in Northern Ireland to begin the conversation about funeral poverty and the challenges families face at a difficult time in their lives.

She pointed out, “One in six people in Northern Ireland will struggle with funeral costs, causing additional stress on top of existing grief and this can have a lasting negative impact on health and wellbeing for years to come.

“This of course, is only the first step.

“I have been assured by the Permanent Secretary, Leo O’Reilly that this will be brought to the attention of any incoming Minister in an Executive. I shall wait patiently until the day comes that I can knock his or her door.

“I want to see the Children’s Funeral Fund, as is in place in England and Wales, in place here.

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“I am also so proud of the support I have received from my Ulster Unionist Council Colleagues. This motion has been raised in every Council in Northern Ireland already. There has been an amazing wave of support and we will see this coming into effect across the other 10 councils.

“The marker has been put firmly down by ABC Council, now it’s time for the other Councils to follow suit - and of course it’s time to press those in positions of power and influence to get their act together for the good of everyone. There are bigger decisions to be made than this of course, but if they won’t do it- it’s time for us Councillors to show them what we are made of!

“When Jake was here, we had to be his eyes and ears and voice - I hope I still am.”

An Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council spokesperson said they will waive the cost of opening a grave for resident children under the age of eighteen next month.

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She explained, “The change in fee structure was agreed at the full council meeting in April and will come into effect from 1 June 2018.

“Council’s Cemetery Services Department is currently in the process of notifying all funeral directors and other relevant agencies of the change which applies to any plot opening for a resident child within all council operational cemeteries.”