TODAY the family of Margaret Keane will attend a long-awaited court hearing regarding their mother’s gravestone.
Following her death in 2018, Margaret’s family had intended to inscribe the words ‘In ar gcroithe go deo’, meaning ‘In our hearts forever’, on the headstone that will mark her final resting place.
The Co Meath native had moved to Coventry in her younger years and set deep roots in her local community with her husband Bernie – particularly in their dedication to the local Roger Casements GAA club.
The pair raised a family of six children in a loving home where “the door was always open”, her son Vincent confirmed recently.
Margaret was a proud Irish woman, who was also dedicated to her local community in Coventry, and when she passed away in 2018 her devastated family were determined to include a reference to her heritage on her gravestone at St Giles Church.
Their request for an inscription in Gaelic and the meaning behind it really is as straightforward as that.
Sadly, in May 2020 a Church of England ecclesiastical court decided otherwise, ruling that the family’s intended phrase must be accompanied by a translation, because it could otherwise be deemed a “political” statement.
That ruling, that anti-Irish judgement, put a stop to the Keane family’s grieving.
It set them on a path of appeal, to overturn the ruling, that has been stressful and emotional.
It has taken nearly a year but now hopefully their battle will come to an end.
Their appeal hearing takes place today, Wednesday, February 24, at St Mary-Le-Bow Church in London.
It will be led by the family’s legal team, which includes solicitor Caroline Brogan and barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Mary-Rachel McCabe ,who are all acting pro bono.
It will also feature a submission from Conradh Ni Gaelige London, who are acting as a third-party intervener for the family.
Ahead of the hearing the organisation urged the court to act with fairness, dignity and understanding.
Oisín Mac Conamhna, Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge in London, added: "We wish to remind the former Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry of his Christian heritage, that his Diocese was founded and converted to Christianity by Irish monks, when their teachings were heard for the first time in Irish.
"Freedom of loving expression is not only a human right under the law of the United Kingdom, but it is also something that ought to be celebrated, regardless of religious, political or linguistic persuasion.”
An outcome from the hearing is not expected for a number of weeks, so there is still some time yet before we will know whether or not justice has been done for the Keane family.
But it is certainly time for the Church of England to make the right decision in this matter.
It is time this anti-Irish ruling was overturned and that an apology be made to the Keane family – and the Irish community more generally in this country – for the distress this prejudicial court order has caused.
Following this, a commitment must be made by the authority in question to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again in this country.
Nothing less will be good enough.