Poverty follows people to the grave as families rely on handouts

Poverty follows people to the grave as families rely on handouts
€8m a year spent helping grieving relatives


Rising funeral costs are forcing some families to face the heartache of choosing to bury relatives long distances from their loved ones, The Irish Catholic can reveal.

This newspaper has also obtained figures which show that more and more people are also being forced to rely on government handouts to cover costs when a loved one dies with more than €8million in grants given last year alone.

Homelessness charity Focus Ireland confirmed to The Irish Catholic that they too were being called on to help grieving families. Spokesperson for the charity Roughan McNamara, told this newspaper that it often receives calls from struggling families pleading for help to cover funeral costs.

“It is something that we’ve found…families of tenants or people using our services have had difficulties with it [funeral costs].

“It is something everyone has noticed and Focus has in the past had to contribute to the cost of family funerals,” he said adding that worries over affordability can “add to the grief” that families are experiencing.


While funeral costs have remained static in recent years, the costs of graves – particularly in Dublin – is causing distress for some families.

One Dublin priest who works in a disadvantaged community on the capital’s northside but asked not to be identified, confirmed that in his experience parishioners often find it difficult to make ends meet when it comes to paying for funerals. He said that the cost of a grave is a major issue and in some circumstances that he is aware of, families in Dublin cannot afford to bury their deceased loved ones in a local graveyard and must choose a grave outside the capital. This adds to the difficulty in family members being able to visit the grave on a regular basis – a source of comfort to many grieving families.

Figures released to this paper from the Department of Social Protection show that the State provided some 2,900 grants to assist with funerals at a cost of €5.46million last year – an increase from 2017 when it spent just over €5million.

Over the financial year 2016-2017, figures from the North released to The Irish Catholic reveal that 2,176 grants were made for funerals costing £2.29million (€2.66million).

Cheaper option

Describing the cost of funerals as “crazy stuff”, Fr Joe McDonald of Ballyfermot parish said that he is aware of some families choosing cremation over burial because it is a cheaper option. The well-known parish priest added that he is also aware that some people are also taking out loans to help with the costs.

“It’s an awful situation where someone in a family is dying and the question comes up ‘have we the money to bury her?’

“It’s an awful question: Mum is dying of cancer, her battle has been going on for years – she’s in the hospice now. Time is short and that’s one of the questions,” Fr McDonald said.

Fr Seamus Ahearne of Rivermount parish in Dublin said that while in his experience, finances are not the primary concern of a mourning family, he does go out of his way to try to help people think economically.

“Obviously people need help etc., but this is not very central. It is more difficult to persuade people to limit cars; to limit flowers; to limit the expense of a coffin etc.,” he said.

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