A FAMILY who are fighting to have their mother’s gravestone inscribed with a Gaelic phrase could be forced to pay substantial court costs for pursuing their appeal.
Lodged in August, the appeal seeks to overturn a decision made in May by the Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry, Stephen Eyre QC, regarding the headstone of Westmeath native Margaret Keane, who died in 2018.
The Keane family designed a headstone for her grave at St Giles Church which featured the phrase In ár gcroíthe go deo”, which means In our hearts forever.
However, Mr Eyre ruled that the Irish language could not be allowed in a Coventry graveyard without translation as it could be deemed a “political statement”.
He also refused the family the right to appeal his judgement, forcing them to apply for permission to do so from the Arches Court of Canterbury, who granted it in August.
Acting pro bono, the family’s legal team, including solicitor Caroline Brogan at Irwin Mitchell and barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Mary-Rachel McCabe of Doughty St Chambers, have since lodged that appeal.
But it has been revealed exclusively to The Irish Post that to pursue this review of their case, the family could be forced to pay all of the court’s costs, whatever the outcome.
Bez Martin, Mrs Keane’s daughter, told The Irish Post: “Whilst our own legal team are all acting for the family on a free of charge basis, we could be required by the Arches Court of Canterbury to pay the Court substantial costs, whatever the outcome of the appeal, which could include costs for the judges’ time.”
She explained: “There will be a judge and two other tribunal members, who could each charge an hourly rate of £180.
“This would be in addition to the substantial fees and costs that we have paid to the Church of England and their courts to date, which are in the region of £2,000.
“To make matters worse, it is difficult to predict what those further costs will be as they are based on future time spent by the Court.”
The family, who are fighting to overturn an anti-Irish decision that been drawn criticism across the board - including from the Irish Embassy and the Church of England itself, have called on the court to waive its costs and fees in this instance.
“We understand that most courts have fees for applications and appeals; but we are not aware of any other legal system where a person has to pay the judge for their time, in addition to paying application and hearing fees,” said Ms Martin.
“This is an immense burden for our family to bear,” she added.
“Our appeal application is to overturn the judgment refusing the Irish only inscription.
“We simply want to be treated equally to the other parishioners. Other parishioners have been permitted to have gravestones in the Churchyard with inscriptions in other languages, without translation. But for us to have equal treatment, we have to go through a lengthy and expensive court process.
“We feel that we have a moral obligation to challenge the reasoning given and that this transcends Coventry’s borders.”
She explained: “We have asked the Church Court to review the position and to work with us, in particular to waive costs and fees.
“This whole matter arises because of a judgment made by a lower church court and the Church of England have distanced themselves from that judgment.
“Why should anybody other than the Church and their legal system pay the Church Court to rectify the hurt and damage caused?”