A group of families who are considering legal action against the Catholic Church over the future of a controversial plot of land in a cemetery have said they will “oppose any attempts” to erect a memorial garden at the site.

The families, who have consulted Madden & Finucane Solicitors and who are no longer members of the Relatives of Milltown Babies campaign group, have opted to explore legal action against the Trustees of Milltown Cemetery.

The group wants to challenge any attempt to build a memorial garden at the site, which lies near the Bog Meadows at the far end of the Falls Road cemetery.

The land, which is believed to be the resting place of thousands of babies, has been at the centre of controversy since 2008 when campaign group, Relatives of the Milltown Babies began holding weekly protests outside the cemetery.

The piece of land was sold to the Ulster Wildlife Trust in 2000 by the Catholic Church.

However, it was later found that the remains of babies and other human remains were contained within the plot of land prompting the campaign group to put pressure on the Catholic Church to buy the land back.

A financial agreement between the Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Trustees of Milltown Cemetery to buy 5.9 acres of land back was achieved earlier this month, although neither party have revealed the financial figures involved.

In 2009 Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor publicly apologised for selling off the land and also later blessed the area during the annual Cemetery Sunday.

However, the Relatives of Milltown Babies split with some members forming a separate group who have opted to explore legal action against the Catholic Church.

Siubhainin Ni Chutnneagam, who is one of the family members who has left the group to pursue a legal route, said the new group wanted “a full investigation” of 37 acres in the area.

Ms Ni Chutnneagam said the group believed there were many more remains of children and adults outside of the 5.9 acres.

She said the group also wanted access to all cemetery records and believes that a total of 57,000 remains may lie in the full 57 acres.

“We will oppose any attempts to use that land before a full investigation by professionals,” she said.

“We want that land surveyed by professionals not from Northern Ireland.”

Ms Ni Chutnneagam claimed that previous investigations had looked at only part of the land.

Solicitor Peter Madden, who is representing the families, said: “We are currently considering a legal remedy for the proposal put forward by the trustees which is not acceptable to our clients.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said it would “continue to consult with all relatives as we continue to take forward the project with them.”