Northern Ireland

Belfast City Cemetery memorial for babies in unmarked graves unveiled

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Media captionBelfast City Cemetery memorial for babies in unmarked graves unveiled

A sculpture remembering thousands of babies who died shortly after birth or were stillborn has been unveiled in Belfast City Cemetery.

The area known as Plot Z1 contains the unmarked graves of 7,160 babies.

Families have been campaigning for almost five years to have a memorial placed at the site.

Belfast City Council appointed a sculptor who consulted with families about the final design.

'Recognition of babies and personal loss'

Agnes Close's son, Maxwell, was buried in the the plot in January 1973.

She said the loss of a baby was previously treated "very differently".

Image caption Ms Close, whose son was buried in the plot having died shortly after his birth in 1973

"Many families, including my own, were not permitted to see or hold our babies when they died or to plan a funeral," she said.

"To finally see this beautiful memorial in place gives recognition not just to our babies but also to the personal loss suffered in private by so many families."

The city council approved the final design in January after the original plans were met with opposition from families.

The initial proposal was a rock with a bonsai tree.

Image copyright Charlotte Howarth
Image caption A image showing the design which was created by Charlotte Howarth

Mrs Close added: "The families wish to thank Belfast City Council for agreeing to this memorial and to all the political parties for their support."

Speaking ahead of the unveiling, she paid tribute to Charlotte Howarth, who was behind the design.

"We could not have wished for a more beautiful and fitting tribute to our babies," she said.

"These babies were, and are, part of our families, always loved and never forgotten.

"This memorial ensures that generations to come will know what this place represents."

Another family member, Pat Stringer, said she was glad to see the memorial being installed.

"My sister and brothers and I feel privileged that we can be part of this and I know that our own parents would have been so grateful that their eight-month old daughter, Diane, who was buried here 60 years ago, has at last been afforded this dignity."

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