A language rights group is supporting the family of a popular Coventry woman in their bid to honour her memory with an Irish inscription.

It comes as a date is set for an appeal against the decision by the Diocese of Coventry, which said that the Irish language words without a translation could be interpreted as a ‘political statement’.

And in further good news for the family of Margaret Keane, the Church has confirmed the family will not have to pay for costs, regardless of the outcome of the appeal.

As reported, they launched a fundraiser amid fears that the cost of the proceedings could leave them with ‘substantial court costs’ to bear.

All money raised so far will be donated to the Margaret Keane Memorial Fund.

What’s the appeal about?

Margaret Keane was a well-known community stalwart and Bedworth dinner lady who died in July 2018.

Her family want the phrase ‘in ár gcroithe go deo” on her gravestone at St Giles Church Exhall in Ash Green. The phrase translates as “in our hearts forever”.

But Judge Stephen Eyre QC, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry, declined the request, saying it could be misinterpreted as a political slogan if there was no English translation alongside the phrase.

The family applied for permission from the Arches Court of Canterbury to appeal the decision and a date for that hearing has now been set for Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

Irish Language Rights group Conradh na Gaeilge i Londain has also been given permission to intervene in the appeal proceedings.

A spokesman for the group said: “We believe that this case is very important, not just for Mrs Keane’s family but for all members of the Irish diaspora who might wish to commemorate their loved ones’ linguistic and cultural heritage appropriately within the Church of England.

“We will do everything we can to support her family in their appeal, mar is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.”

In a statement, two of Margaret’s daughters, Bez Killeen and Caroline Newey, said: “We are relieved that the appeal hearing has finally been listed and we welcome the intervention by Conradh na Gaeilge (London branch), which is a strong show of support for our ongoing case to have an Irish only inscription on our mum’s gravestone.

“We just want to be treated the same as the other parishioners. We are still horrified that we have found ourselves in a situation where we have to go through a lengthy appeal process with the ecclesiastical court.

“There are other gravestones in the Churchyard, in other languages, such as Welsh, Hebrew and Latin (all without translation) and they did not have to go through this process.”

Margaret’s family “so grateful” for support

The family also welcomed news that they won’t be left with escalating court costs.

Although their legal team are working free of charge, the ecclesiastical court, which is separate to the Church of England, is entitled to charge costs.

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After an appeal to the Arches Court of Canterbury it was confirmed that the family will be reimbursed the £1,914.60 they have paid to the court to date, and they will be given assistance from sources within the church to cover their future court costs.

It’s believed this applies only to the family, so Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish language group speaking in support of the family, may be left with court costs to pay.

The money raised from the fundraiser will go towards this and the Margaret Keane Memorial Fund, which helps fund a children’s Irish exchange project in Coventry and an independent study into the impact of public decisions on Black and Minority Ethnic groups.

A family spokesman said: “The family are profoundly grateful and moved by the overwhelming support that they have received from the public; from all those who have sent messages of support from around the world, to donations to the crowd fund.

“The battle to achieve parity of esteem with the other parishioners and to have an Irish only inscription on the gravestone is ongoing, but the intervention by the church regarding costs is a very welcome development.”

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