Milltown Cemetery (Irish: Reilig Bhaile an Mhuilinn) is a large cemetery in west Belfast, Northern Ireland.

It lies within the townland of Ballymurphy, between Falls Road and the M1 motorway. Milltown Cemetery opened in 1869 and there are now approximately 200,000 of Belfast's citizens buried there.[1] Most of those buried there are Irish Catholic. Within the cemetery there are three large sections of open space, each about the size of a football field, designated as "poor ground". Over 80,000 people are buried in the cemetery's poor grounds, many of whom died in the flu pandemic of 1919.[2] Since 2007, the 55-acre (220,000 m2) cemetery has undergone extensive work, reversing years of neglect.[citation needed]


The cemetery, located in the heart of West Belfast has become synonymous with Irish republicanism. Irish Republican Army volunteer Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike on 5 May 1981, is buried in the cemetery. Fellow hunger-strikers, Kieran Doherty, Joe McDonnell and Pat McGeown (who died a number of years later from ill-health brought about by the hunger strike) are also buried there. In total, 77 IRA volunteers are buried in what is known as the 'New Republican Plot', a further 34 volunteers are buried in what is known as the County Antrim Memorial Plot and which was used between 1969 and 1972.[3] Throughout the cemetery, many more IRA volunteers are buried in family graves. These include Tom Williams, who was executed in Crumlin Road Prison on 2 September 1942. Williams' body lay in a prison grave until January 2000, when a campaign, by the National Graves Association, Belfast, to have his remains re-interred in Milltown was successful.[4] Members of the INLA, IPLO and Workers' Party are also buried there.[2]

Milltown was the scene of the Milltown Cemetery attack on 16 March 1988, when loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone attacked a funeral, killing three mourners as IRA volunteers Dan McCann, Seán Savage and Mairéad Farrell, were being buried. All three were killed by members of the SAS at Gibraltar during Operation Flavius.


Milltown Cemetery has approximately 50,000 graves within its 55-acre (220,000 m2) site. Listed below a number of graves which are of interest to tourists coming to the cemetery. Although the cemetery itself does not conduct its own official tours, there are a number of tour companies which focus their tours on around the following monuments and persons.

Harbinson Plot
William Harbinson died while interned in Belfast Prison and was buried at Portmore, Ballinderry. A Celtic cross was erected to his memory, and that of other republicans who were imprisoned in County Antrim jails, in Milltown cemetery in 1912. This plot contains the remains of 5 IRA volunteers:
  • Joe McKelvey, Liam Mellows, Dick Barrett, and Rory O'Connor were captured when Free State forces attacked the Four Courts in Dublin. Without charge or trial, on 8 December 1922, they were executed by firing squad. In 1924, McKelvey was re-interred in Milltown.
  • Sean McCartney was shot dead by British Forces while engaging in paramilitary activities on 8 May 1921 in the Lappinduff Mountains, County Cavan. He was a member of a Belfast Flying Column which operated there.
  • Terence Perry, in 1939, as part of the IRA's Expeditionary Force, volunteered for paramilitary activities in England. Captured, he was imprisoned in Parkhurst Prison, where he died on 7 July 1942.
  • Sean Gaffney, an IRA volunteer was imprisoned on the prison ship HMS Al Rawdah, moored at Strangford Lough. On 18 November 1940, he died while still in prison.
  • Seamus "Rocky" Burns, while interned, escaped from Derry jail. He was in Belfast when he was shot by RUC personnel in Castle Street. He died on 12 February 1944.[5]
County Antrim Memorial Plot
Unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the plot honours the county's republican dead.[6] 34 IRA volunteers who died while involved in paramilitary activity during the late 1960s and early 1970s are buried there.
New Republican Plot
New Republican Plot: marker for a grave with four burials, surrounded by private memorials to those interred here
New Republican Plot 
In 1972, the National Graves Association purchased the ground which would become the New Republican Plot. It has space for 46 graves, each to accommodate four burials (allowing for a total of 184 coffins to be buried). The first burials here took place in July of that year. This plot contains the remains of 77 IRA Volunteers who have died while engaging in paramilitary activities or as a result of imprisonment or assassination, not only in Belfast but those killed as far away as Gibraltar. Here are buried those volunteers who died as a result of hunger striking.[5]
Winifred Carney Grave
Winifred Carney, a lifelong socialist died on 21 November 1943, was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan. She was a comrade and secretary to Commadante James Connolly. Winifred was a combatant during the 1916 Easter Rising and was the last woman to leave the G.P.O.[5]
Sean McCaughey Grave
INLA Plot 
The INLA Plot contains the remains of ten members of the Irish National Liberation Army
Giuseppe Conlon Grave
Gerard Dillon Grave
Cathal O'Byrne Grave

Daniel O'Neill Grave

Military War Graves
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintain and register the graves within the cemetery of British Commonwealth service personnel, covering years 1914–21 and 1939–47. There are 102 of World War I and 52 of World War II, besides 10 foreign national servicemen. Focal point is a Cross of Sacrifice erected by the Commission after World War I, near which stands a Screen Wall memorial listing those of that war whose graves could not be individually marked.[7]

Image gallery


  1. ^ Cemetery records
  2. ^ a b Cemetery Records
  3. ^ National Graves Association leaflet 'Milltown Cemetery'
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ a b c National Graves Association, Belfast
  6. ^ Antrim's Patriot Dead 1797–1953 by National Graves Association, Belfast, Pages 7 & 9
  7. ^ "Cemetery Details". Cwgc.org. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 

Coordinates: 54°35′17″N 5°58′34″W / 54.588°N 5.976°W / 54.588; -5.976

Further reading

External links