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Disgust at ‘cruel’ Council letter to grieving family


Cemetery bill posted to parents day before son is buried

Anton McNulty

A CROSSMOLINA husband and wife have expressed their disgust with Mayo County Council after it posted them a bill for a burial plot the day before their son was buried.
On August 9, Seamus and Ruth Durkan of Netley, Crossmolina, received the €1,300 bill for a burial plot at Lisheen Cemetery just two days after laying their precious son Conal to rest. He had died suddenly aged just 28.
Following his death, his parents requested a treble plot in Lisheen Cemetery in order for them to be buried beside their son when they die. The plot was paid for in full by the undertaker dealing with the funeral on Sunday, August 8. However, the family still received a letter seeking payment the following day.
Mr Durkan’s parents wrote to all the councillors in the Ballina region expressing their disgust at the timing of the letter, and they asked for it to be raised at yesterday’s meeting of Mayo County Council.

Cllr Mark Duffy, who was the first councillor to raise the matter, read out the letter.
“While still in the midst of unimaginable grief we received a letter on Monday, August 9,” the Durkans wrote. “The letter was posted on Friday, the day before our son was buried, to arrive on Monday.
“I cannot express adequately in words the unnecessary upset this letter brought to our house. The first reaction was total disgust followed by disbelief, hurt, anger and revulsion. How can any person with a heart send this letter to a family ripped apart by the death of a young man?
“To receive the letter was bad enough, but to think the bill had been executed in full makes the situation even worse. I want the matter discussed at the next council meeting to ensure no other family has to be subject to this type of cruelty again.”
Cllr Duffy called for the council to apologise for sending out the letter. He also asked that all future correspondence to be solely between the undertaker and Mayo County Council.
“It was completely insensitive to send a bill directly to the family the day before their son was buried. The timing was completely wrong. I hope this is a lesson and that no family has to go through this again. A letter of apology should come from Mayo County Council to the family,” he said.

Crossmolina-based councillor Michael Loftus, who knows the Durkan family, branded the timing of the bill ‘an absolute disgrace’. He called for senior management to personally apologise for what happened and ensure that it would never happen to any other family.
“I know these people very well and what happened to them that week was unbelievable. I could not get over this letter from Mayo County Council. I just think it is an absolute disgrace. When you look at the letter [from the council] itself, while they do make their condolences, the insensitivity of what is actually in the letter….
“I’d go one step further and asked the County Manager to actually ring them [the Durkan family] and explain and apologise. It is the least we can do in relation to this. A letter is so impersonal. A phone call would be more appropriate,” he said.
Other councillors in the Ballina region also criticised the timing and wording of the letter and asked Mayo County Council to issue an apology to the family.
In reply, Director of Services John Condon told the councillors he would take responsibility for making contact with the Durkans and speak to them with regards the issuing of the bill.
“I don’t know what is in the [council] letter and why it was sent and will have it checked out. I am happy to make the phone call as requested,” he commented.