Council to compensate grieving Belfast family after "absolutely horrifying" Roselawn burial

By Lauren Harte

Belfast City Council has agreed to compensate a family who had to watch their beloved mother's coffin get stuck and covered in "piles of muck" because her grave was not dug wide enough.

Maud McDonagh, 73, was buried at Belfast's Roselawn Cemetery on April 9 this year.

As first revealed by Belfast Live last month, Roselawn did not prepare her grave to a suitable width in order to allow for her "dignified" burial on the day.

Her family believe that the incident resulted in part of the existing marble surround being buried in the soil.

While correct coffin size measurements were provided by the family's funeral director, Maud's grieving family - including her children Stevie, Matthew, Angie, Linda and Mandy - turned up for the burial only to find that her grave wasn't properly measured.

As a result her coffin got stuck and the grave had to be widened in front of her shocked family members.

Her family were left deeply distressed by the incident and said they wanted to prevent another family going through what they had to endure earlier this year.

Stevie previously told Belfast Live: "When the undertakers started to lower mum's coffin into the ground you could see that the coffin had got stuck in the grave.

"They had to raise my mum's coffin back out and alter the measurements in front of everyone. We were told there was a mix-up with the measurements for the plot.

"Then they started digging the grave wider in front of us. The whole thing was just a complete shambles."

His sister Linda, 42, said she still has nightmares about the events of that "absolutely horrifying" day.

Maud McDonagh who died in April of this year (Steven McDonagh)

When the family returned to Maud's graveside several days later, they discovered that some of the existing black marble surround was missing.

Maud's son Tucker, who died on March 2007 aged 36, is also buried in the same plot.

"We had a marble surround and four small posts in place but these now cannot be found," Stevie, 53, explained.

"We have been told that the surround had to be removed to allow the machinery to open the grave and were placed at the side of it."

The family believes the cornerstones were mistakenly buried in the soil.

The McDonagh family plot at Roselawn Cemetery (Steven McDonagh)

Belfast City Council has since formally apologised to the McDonagh family, saying the circumstances of their mother's burial "were not correct".

In a letter seen by Belfast Live, the council said: "It is recognised that the surround is the property of the family and that the four cornerstones may have been misplaced while under our control, while we were digging the grave."

As a gesture of apology the council's burial fee was waived and the local authority has also since agreed to provide compensation totalling £170 for the lost cornerstones.

Stevie said: "This has been going on for five months now so we just want to get our mum's grave all fixed up again to the standard it was before she was laid to rest with our young brother in it."

In a statement, the council said its officers "are working with the funeral director to resolve this for the family”.

For the latest breaking news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.