This editorial was sent to me. What do you think of this latest development?
The families who have been involved with the Milltown Cemetery project in Belfast and who have struggled with the fact that the Catholic Church sold the graves of their relatives to a wildlife reserve in 2000 have been dealt another harrowing double-edged blow this month. The cemetery administrator Fr. Martin Graham has issued a dictatorial email to relatives which stated that work on the site was to take place from the 26th of March and that the homemade crosses and plaques which mark the approximate location of some of the graves had to be removed by then. The relatives are stunned by this decision as there had been an agreement that no work would take place on the land until all current investigative work was finished and reports on any further land which may contain human burial produced. It was only at that stage that discussion on what would happen to the six acre strip of land which lies along the eastern boundary of the cemetery was to take place between the relatives and the church, including discussion on what was to replace the family markers.
The current archaeological investigation involves 53 trenches which are to be dug over approximately twenty-six of the original thirty-seven acres sold by the church in 2000. The decision bmey the church to press ahead with work on the land will in effect disallow a number of trenches to be excavated in some of the most contentious areas within the six acres already returned to the cemetery in 2010. The purpose of this work has always been to identify the presence and extent of burial outside the consecrated ground of the cemetery and this latest move will effectively rob the relatives of their last chance to determine the extent of graves which evidence from numerous ethnographic accounts from local people and past cemetery staff state are present.
This sticking-plaster approach adopted by the church has been viewed by families as yet another betrayal and continuing evidence of the total disregard in which they are held by the very church which should be protecting them. The church hierarchy however, are in for a continued fight as they discover that the body of the church which they term ‘The ordinaries’ are quite extraordinary when it comes to taking a stand in defence of their own.