Families' shock as graves taped off at Belfast cemetery
Visitors blast council safety measures as over-the-top
Families whose loved ones are buried at Roselawn Cemetery have been left upset after Belfast City Council cordoned off more than 100 graves with blue tape and posted warnings that they were “unstable”.
The plots affected are to the right of the entrance, where a sea of blue tape and wooden posts with triangular black and yellow warning signs stretches over the horizon.
The warning signs state: “This memorial has failed a regulatory test and is deemed unstable. Please do not touch.”
Local man Stuart Bailie, who was tending his father James’ grave, said he was “really shocked” at the council’s actions.
“This is horrible, it seems really insensitive and crass,” he said.
“The grave is registered to me and there has been no attempt to contact the family.
“The council could have handled this a bit more sensitively. Whatever health and safety dictates, for grieving relatives to come and see their loved ones’ graves in this state is terrible. A lot of people will arrive to visit the graves and won’t be prepared for this.”
Another visitor labelled the council’s actions “disrespectful”.
He said: “It’s a bit ridiculous but it’s also disrespectful to the dead and to grieving families. It certainly doesn’t look too good.
“You couldn’t miss the tape and warning signs and it wouldn’t make a relative feel too good.” Belfast City Council said that the move was part of its memorial management policy, which was adopted on April 1 last year.
It said: “We are carrying out safety inspection of memorials in our cemeteries.
“Where a memorial is found to be unstable and therefore unsafe, it is staked and banded as a temporary safety repair and a safety notice is affixed informing people that the memorial is unstable.
“We are aware that there are sensitivities around graves and cemeteries.
“For this reason we gave the public advance notice through various communication channels that this safety inspection process would be carried out.
“Whilst avoiding upsetting families is a priority for us, we also need to ensure that our cemeteries are safe for visitors and staff.”
So far the council has deemed 158 memorials across Belfast unsafe — nine in Balmoral Cemetery, one in Shankill Graveyard, three in Clifton Street and, as of mid-February, 145 in Roselawn Cemetery.
It added: “If the grave has been marked as ‘unsafe’ the registered grave owner, as the owner of the memorial, will be contacted informing them that they must ensure that the memorial is made permanently safe by an approved monumental sculptor within three months.
“We will send a reminder letter after a further three months if no effort has been made to make the memorial permanently safe.
“If no action is taken within the next six to 12 months, the council will take steps to make the memorial permanently safe.”
A council booklet says that this could involve “removing the memorial from its foundation and partially sinking it into the ground at the head of the grave”, or, “in exceptional circumstances”, simply removing it.