A headstone was installed on St Patrick’s Day for a Coventry family who won a legal battle to have an Irish-language phrase on their mother’s memorial.

The family of Margaret Keane, a beloved and well-known member of Coventry’s Irish community, were initially told they could not have the phrase “in ár gcroithe go deo”, meaning “in our hearts forever” on their Margaret’s stone at St Giles Church in Ash Green, without an English translation featuring next to it.

But following an appeal at The Arches Court of Canterbury last month which deemed the decision to be discriminatory, the family have now had the stone installed at their mother’s grave.

The family said on social media: “A poignant end to our journey on this St Patrick’s Day sees mum’s headstone finally installed, today may mum finally rest in eternal peace.”

As well as being well-known in the Irish community, Margaret was a dinner lady in Bedworth for years.

Margaret Keane was a much-loved community figure in Coventry

The appeal

As reported, Mrs Keane’s family was told they could not have the phrase “in ár gcroithe go deo” without an English translation featuring next to it.

The Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry ruled that an Irish-only phrase could be misinterpreted as a political slogan.

In an appeal against that judgement which was heard in February at St Mary-Le-Bow Church in London, Caolifhionn Gallagher QC, representing Mrs Keane’s family, said the decision amounted to direct discrimination.

At the end of the hearing, the court announced that the appeal would be granted and a full judgement will be published in due course. Arguing her case, Ms Gallagher pointed to other headstones in the graveyard where phrases in languages other than English have been allowed without translation, including in Welsh.

“This could have an adverse impact on people whose mother tongue is different to English,” she said.

The Dean of the Arches, Morag Ellis QC, asked if the family would accept an English translation of the phrase in the parish register, as is the case for the Welsh headstone.

Margaret Keane and her husband Bernie at Roger Casements Gaelic Athletics Association in Coventry

After taking instruction from the family, Ms Gallagher indicated this would be accepted by the family.

She outlined her case by talking about Mrs Keane and her husband Bernie, who were described as “highly regarded” people both in Coventry and further afield.

Mrs Keane moved from Ireland to Coventry in her youth, and met her husband through the Roger Casements Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA).

An art exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery featured the pair, and was called “Irish heart, Coventry home,” which Ms Gallagher said summed up Mrs Keane’s life.

The former dinner lady dedicated “decades of her life” to voluntary service and retained a strong attachment to Ireland, she added.

Ms Gallagher said: “It was her birthplace, the country of her citizenship, but also Coventry was a place she loved, the place she made her home for decades.

“[The Irish language phrase] reflects how her loved ones wish to say goodbye in the language that she loved.”

With regards to the phrase being misinterpreted as a political slogan, Ms Gallagher said: “There is no evidence of any anti-Irish feeling in the local area which would lead people to assume that the phrase was political.”

She added that the family considered the original judgement denying them their wish to have the phrase without an English translation to be anti-Irish.

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