Thursday, June 17, 2021

A family with Mayo roots family who won a landmark appeal to have “Inár gcroí go Deo” (“In Our Heart Forever”) in Irish-only on their mother’s gravestone, has welcomed the court’s written judgment.

Her husband Bernard Keane of Annagh, Ballyhaunis and his family were forced to take their case to the Court of the Arches of Canterbury after the parish council and then the Church Court in Coventry ruled that the inscription on Margaret Keane’s gravestone must be accompanied by the English translation.

The family of Margaret Keane was told by the Arches Court of Canterbury at the end of the appeal hearing at St Mary-le-Bow in London earlier this year that they had succeeded and the original decision would be overturned, but that the full details of the court’s reasoning and findings would be handed down later in its written Judgment.

In the written judgment, the Arches Court of Canterbury confirmed that the decision of the Chancellor not to permit the family’s inscription in Irish-only (without an English translation) was unreasonable under the common law, and in breach of the family’s right not to be discriminated against under the Human Rights Act and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The Judgement also directs all Diocesan Chancellors to review their Churchyard Regulations to ensure that they are not discriminatory, particularly in relation to non-English inscriptions.

The Judgement states: “..we find that the effect of the Chancellor’s decision was to discriminate directly against the Appellant on the basis of her race” and that “…an assumption seems to have been made that viewers of the inscription, realising that it was in Irish, would conclude that it was a political slogan, which we have found not to be based upon evidence or any other rational footing. The requirement for translation was, therefore, based upon Irishness, a racial characteristic”.

 Margaret Keane was originally from Athboy, Co Meath and the family wanted to reflect her Irish heritage in their tributes to her when she died, never expecting it would take three years and a long court battle to do so.

Margaret’s daughter, Bez Martin, said: “It’s quite overwhelming, but mum always taught us the difference between right and wrong and so we always knew in our own hearts that we were doing the right thing by challenging discrimination and asking to be treated the same as the other parishioners.

Margaret’s daughter, Caroline Newey, who brought the appeal said: “As soon as we received the Judgment, the first person I had to tell was my mum and I went straight to her beautiful resting place at the Meadow.

I was able to sit beside her gravestone and tell her that she is in our hearts forever and that we hope that our long battle all the way to the highest appeal court in the ecclesiastical system will mean that no other family has to go through this. The appeal court not only allowed us to have “In our hearts forever” in Irish-only on our mum’s grave, but they also sent a very clear message about respect for identity and inclusivity”.

Caroline Brogan of Irwin Mitchell, the family’s solicitor, said: “This is a landmark appeal court ruling on equality and the recognition of Irish language rights. The Irish language is not political; it is used by ordinary people every day. A person’s own language goes to the very heart of their own identity.”

The Keane’s are steeped in GAA history with Bernard a former president of the GAA in Britain. His great grandfather Michael Keane played football for Annagh Rovers, the first Aghamore team in the 1880s, and Bernard and his brothers played for Ballyhaunis GAA Club and once settling in the UK in the 1970s Bernard organised GAA trips for the Ballyhaunis club to Coventry. Margaret herself was awarded the GAA President’s International Award at Croke Park in 2017 for her services to Gaelic games in Warwickshire. Indeed it was in the Roger Casements GAA club that she not only met her future husband and Mayo hurler Bernie Keane but she started out on an extraordinary career as a volunteer which saw her become both synonymous with the club through a variety of officer posts and also a highly regarded member of the Warwickshire County Board and an ever-friendly face at meetings and matches at Páirc na hÉireann.

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