Upset for grieving families

The names of babies who passed away may have to be remembered on a website as the space for plaques at a council remembrance garden is running out, councillors have been told.

Cllr Uel Mackin proposed a wall be installed to  include plaques
Cllr Uel Mackin proposed a wall be installed to include plaques

But the plan is facing resistance from elected representatives who say families find some comfort in having their loved one remembered in a tangible way at the facility in Lisburn.

The Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council memorial policy is due to be updated for the first time in five years.

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Currently the names of deceased babies and under-age children are put on plaques and placed on a bench ahead of an annual service of reflection.

Councillors were advised to tread carefully by UK Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (Sands) director of bereavement support and volunteering, Jen Coates. She warned the local authority that it should seek approval of grieving parents before digitalising their loved one’s names.

Ms Coates added: “It’s vital that any changes to remembrance or memorial garden guidelines are only made after proper consultation with the families of the babies and children who have passed away.

“Being able to visit a garden of reflection and see their child’s name or names is incredibly important to any
 bereaved parent or other family member.

“Sands is here to support anyone affected by the death of a baby through our range of UK-wide bereavement support services, as well as local Sands Groups and Sands United football teams.”

The corporate and services committee of the council has been told that space for plaques on the remembrance garden benches will run out in two to three years. An online book of memoires would then be generated, councillors have been told.

Although the local authority states that the garden is not a memorial, it attracts hundreds of enquires for plaques annually according to the council.

The new online policy plan received an unwelcome response from council members. Castlereagh East councillor, John Laverty (DUP) highlighted the importance of visible plaques to the bereaved families of the area.

He said: “I was approached by someone days ago, who said that it was great for them to have the garden of reflection.

“We don’t fully appreciate the feelings of these parents, these people are eternally grateful for it.”

Downshire East councillor, Uel Mackin (DUP) put forward a potential solution.

He said: “Could we not put up a wall to put plaques on, in the same way that respect is given to those who have fought in wartime, just like the many monuments across Europe.”

It was then agreed by members to take more time to review the memorial policy.

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