A survey of the Bog Meadows has confirmed that it contains graves of babies and adults which once lay within the Milltown Cemetery boundary.
Scientists from Queen’s University used ground-penetrating radar to reveal the graves in a project coordinated by Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The stretch of land examined once lay within Milltown Cemetery but was leased to the Ulster Wildlife Trust and became part of the Bog Meadows nature reserve. Records suggested that burials were taking place there as recently as the 1980s.
Donna Hanvey, whose infant brother is believed to have been buried there, said: “It says what we have been saying — the graves go right back to where the old drainage ditch is, on the original Milltown boundaries.”
Although no transfer of land to the trustees of Milltown Cemetery could be put in action until the report was published, the Ulster Wildlife Trust began felling trees in the affected stretch two weeks ago in what it described as a “goodwill gesture”.
But the relatives remain sceptical, saying only a quarter of the trees they had expected were removed and the rest cannot now be felled as bird-nesting season officially began at the start of March and it would be an offence to disturb wildlife. The trees cannot be felled until autumn.
However, Ulster Wildlife Trust said it had removed all the trees asked for by Milltown Cemetery.
Chief executive Heather Thompson said: “We have cleared the trees from the area, under one acre, as per Milltown Cemetery’s instructions and as a good-will gesture in advance of the bird-nesting season.”
“We are now well on with the process of land transfer and are currently waiting for the cemetery to agree the new boundaries.”