01 September 2005

Milltown's new shame



By Damian McCarney

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A HEARTBROKEN father of the first child killed in the Troubles says the state of Milltown Cemetery has become so bad that during a visit to his son’s grave this week he had to strim 25 yards of high grass to reach the grave.

Neilly Rooney’s son, Patrick Rooney (9), was the first child shot dead during the Troubles when in August 1969 he was hit by a bullet fired by the RUC as he lay in his bed in his family’s Divis Tower home. After the killing the Rooney family moved to England but they returned soon after because they wanted to be near Patrick’s grave.

“The state of this graveyard is disrespectful to the people buried here and the families coming to grieve. Some of the plots aren’t even recognisable as graves, they are so overgrown. It is ridiculous. I’d like to see the grass cut as a priority.

“I’ll not be around for too many years longer so what is on my mind, and on my wife’s mind, is who is going to look after my son’s grave when we are gone. It is not just us, there are many others in the same position as us, and there are many people buried in the cemetery who already have no one to tend to their graves.”

In order to approach Patrick’s graveside Neilly first has to strim a path from an access road some 25 yards away. He says that on some occasions the gravestone was not visible from a distance. Neilly also finds it difficult to resist tending to a number of other nearby graves buried beneath the weeds. He cuts back the grass at Patrick’s grave every two or three weeks, particularly in the good weather when it grows faster. However, he believes that Citywide Cemetery Regeneration (CCR), who look after the upkeep of the cemetery, could be doing more.

“With a strimmer you have problems cutting through some of the weeds, you would need a machete. I am registered disabled as I have hardened arteries and arthritis. It takes me from 9.30am until about 6.00pm to strim this area as I have to stop for rests. They [CCR] have the manpower to do all this but are not making the effort.”

Brian Muldoon, manager of Citywide Cemetery Regeneration, says that upkeep of the graves does not come under their remit. “It is up to the leaseholders themselves to maintain their own graves. All that we are contracted to do is to clear some pathways and remove rubbish. If someone cannot get access into an area we would try to assist them if they call to our office.

“With regards to the weeds, there are many chemicals that we cannot spray for environmental reasons.

“Any youth groups or voluntary groups who wish to assist in the upkeep of the cemetery can contact us through our Milltown office.”

Journalist:: Danny Browne

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