Mayor slams Secretary of State's '˜stock' letter on children's funeral fees

Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon has slammed the Secretary of State for NI for an '˜stock' response to her bid to scrap children's funeral fees.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley

Ulster Unionist Cllr Julie Flaherty has spearheaded a campaign to scrap these fees after the tragic death of her little boy Jake in 2013.

Her party leader Robin Swann had written to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley to enlist her support for the campaign, however Cllr Flaherty described the response as ‘little more than a stock, holding letter and not worthy of the subject being discussed’.

She called on the Secretary of State to ‘step up to the mark and start taking the decisions which are piling up in all NI departments’.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Julie Flaherty
Lord Mayor, Councillor Julie Flaherty
Lord Mayor, Councillor Julie Flaherty

Cllr Flaherty said Ms Bradley’s letter left her ‘feeling distinctly underwhelmed’.

“The disregard parents are being held in over what may seem a small matter for many, but which is a huge, important matter for the unfortunate few who have lost a child as I did, is utterly disgraceful.

“The number of letters, cards and emails I have received since I began this quest has been very overwhelming and have been very emotional to read, and my quest continues.

“I have already met with the Permanent Secretary in charge of the Department of Communities and I know full well that this type of issue underlines the importance of restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland.

“Local Government has stepped up to the plate and all local councils, like my own here at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, have already waived fees at their own discretion. I am very proud to be able to say the local councils are, as is usual at present, leading the way.

“My message to Karen Bradley MP is quite simple - enough is enough!

“Unless she knows something the rest of us don’t, there is quite clearly no prospect of restoring devolution in the short or medium term. She cannot seriously expect us all to sit back and wait for the DUP and Sinn Fein to do a deal. Decisions are piling up in each of the NI departments across a whole range of issues and she needs to step up to the mark and start taking them. Now would be a good time to start.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State and Ministers offer their deep sympathy to the Lord Mayor and all parents who experience such tragedy.

“This highlights why the Government’s priority is to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland at the earliest opportunity, so that local politicians can take action and help resolve vital issues like this.”