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Taoiseach confirms exception to 50-person limit for places of worship

Varadkar said a “special protocol” will be worked out to allow larger groups to attend services.

Image: PA

THE TAOISEACH HAS said an exception will be made to the 50-person limit for mass gatherings in Phase Three for places of worship.

Under Phase 3, indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people and outdoor gatherings will be restricted to 100 people. The limit for indoor gatherings will increase to 100 in Phase Four. 

Last weekend Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin had criticised the decision to apply this rule to Mass, stating that less than 1% of people in many parishes – many of which number in the thousands – would be able to gather for services.

“It seems strange that in a church with a capacity of 1,500 people which has been scrupulously fitted out for conformity with social distancing and with clear indications about movement and interaction of people within church, that only 50 people might be present, while we all see a situation in which large retail outlets brimming with people,” he said.

He called for “a more reasonable and responsible” approach for churches where there is capacity to hold more than 50 people while still abiding to public health advice on social distancing.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said earlier this week that the focus of this advice was not just about the setting but also the behaviours around events. 

“People have to travel, have to get on public transport, have to mingle as they go in and out etc,” he said. “It’s not just about the setting, for example of a cinema or a church, it’s about how you get there and all of the other activities that happen in association with it.”

This evening, however, Leo Varadkar said an exception will be made for places of worship. A “special protocol” will be worked out to allow larger groups to attend services.

He said this will be policed by the churches themselves and will apply to churches that have a much larger capacity that could accommodate more than 50 people safely.

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