Belfast Telegraph

As Belfast City Council looks for more burying ground sites like this, they're meeting local opposition at practically every turn

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council says it has acquired more land to provide graves for residents at Roselawn Cemetery as pressure on the city's burial grounds reaches crisis levels.

The council is responsible for eight cemeteries yet burials can only take place at three, while new graves can only be bought at one of them - Roselawn.

One Belfast funeral director estimated there were just 1,000 graves left at Roselawn – enough for just a third of the number of people who die in the city each year.

Councillors have been searching for a suitable location for a new super cemetery for decades without success.

A proposed new cemetery at Lisleen in Castlereagh was fiercely opposed by residents and the latest location to be identified at Dundrod is also being fought by those who live nearby.

Funeral director Hugh Dougal, of O'Kane's on Donegall Street in Belfast, said funeral directors in Belfast were highly concerned about the number of available graves and have had meetings with the council over the matter.

"In Roselawn there are about 1,000 graves available at the moment. They have laid out a new section which has not been used yet," he said.

"Milltown has a couple of hundred graves at the most. It was actually closed but they found new graves. The City Cemetery doesn't have any new graves, just family plots.

"Carnmoney has opened another section as well, maybe about 400 graves – they'll be looking for a new cemetery soon. Then you have Redburn in Holywood and Clandeboye in Bangor.

"For churchyards you have to be a parishioner to get a grave."

Mr Dougal said more people were now opting for cremation because of the shortage of graves, but the waiting time of at least three days was proving off-putting.

Two years ago, the waiting time for cremation was up to five days and in response Belfast City Council started to extend the crematorium's opening hours last year.

"The majority of people want burial," said Mr Dougal, "The only choice other than that is cremation, but the waiting time for that can put people off. It's usually three days but can be longer."

"That crematorium is the only one in the north so it can be hard to get the day you want sometimes," he added. "Comparatively, Dublin has three crematoria and there is one in Cork, one in Navan and they are opening another on the west coast. Meanwhile we are sitting with one."

A council spokesman insisted yesterday that more land has now been acquired and once it is brought into use the city will have enough land for burials.

"The council has acquired additional land at Roselawn, and it is estimated that at the current rate of burial there is sufficient land available to meet the burial needs of Belfast for approximately the next 35 years," he said.

FACTFILE

There are understood to be currently just 1,000 graves left at Roselawn Cemetery and another 200 at Milltown in west Belfast.

There are no new grave plots available in either Dundonald or Belfast City Cemetery, but burials can still take place in existing graves.

There are also a limited number of graves located at churchyards across Belfast, which are usually reserved for members of the congregations.

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