Margaret Keane’s family wins Irish language battle


THE family of the late Margaret Keane has won their battle to place a headstone bearing an Irish language inscription following a church court ban being issued.

The ban was initially put in place on the grounds that ‘political passions’ might be inflamed by featuring the phrase ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’—’in our hearts forever’—on the Celtic Cross headstone chosen by the family of the Irish community worker from Coventry.

Thanks to the ruling which overturned the ban, the headstone was finally given approval in time for St Patrick’s Day and the needless conflict over the grave in grounds of St Giles’ Church in Exhall can now be brought to a close.

The process added strain to the grieving family, but with the support of the Irish community and those who knew Mrs Keane through her extensive work in the community – particularly the GAA—the family remained tireless in the efforts to erect a fitting memorial to her life at her resting place.

The initial ruling had called for an accompanying English translation to prevent any unease for anyone unfamiliar with what the phrase means.

“Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic, there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement,” the judgement said. “That is not appropriate and it follows that the phrase ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’ must be accompanied by a translation which can be in a smaller font size.”

However, determined to fight for their mother’s right to have the Irish language on her headstone, the family refused to accept the ruling and began their appeal.

Now, almost two years since her death, their efforts have concluded successfully, with local MP Zarah Sultana commenting: “The Keane family were denied an Irish-only inscription on Margaret’s headstone in Coventry… but today they won their appeal. Justice is done. Congratulations to the Keane family.”

Speaking of how ‘delighted’ she was with the result, Mrs Keane’s daughter Bernadette Martin recognised that she was not only motivated to succeed for her own mother, but for all those who may fall foul of similar rulings in the future.

“I think for us, we did this not just for mum, we know that those who follow hopefully won’t have to go through this and that we represented the Irish-ness that mum was so proud of, to the best of our ability,” she told RTÉ.