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Group of TDs and senators call for churches to be allowed to open for limited attendance during Easter week

The ongoing restrictions are an infringement on a person’s right to religious liberty, they said.

Oireachtas members gathered at Leinster House this morning calling for mass to be allowed to go ahead.
Oireachtas members gathered at Leinster House this morning calling for mass to be allowed to go ahead.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

A GROUP OF TDs and senators have are calling for churches to be allowed to open for limited attendance for Easter week. 

Speaking on the plinth in Leinster House this morning, they said religious services are very important in many peoples’ lives, particularly at a time of worry and stress, and also in Easter week. 

The Dail’s rural independent group, which includes Independent TDs such as Wexford’s Verona Murphy and Tipperary’s Mattie McGrath, said this community is being completely ignored by government. 

They called for church services to be reopened in time for Easter, stating that it is a year into this pandemic, and for the majority of that time worshiping in a church has been banned, unlike some other countries which have allowed churches to stay open, albeit with restrictions. 

While the group acknowledged that public health measures are important, they said there is a fundamental constitutional issue relating to the freedom of worship, stating that Ireland remains an lonely outlier as regards the closure of churches. 

They said the ongoing restrictions curtailing religious services is an infringement on a person’s right to religious liberty, and is having a severe impact on many people.

Other Oireachtas members calling for a lifting of the restrictions as regards mass service includes Aontú’s Peadar Toíbín as well as Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry.

Tóibín said “Ireland is one of hand full of countries in the world where a person of faith cannot attend religious services… We have the ridiculous situation where a priest has been fined €500 in Cavan for holding a church service”.

He said the death of a family member is one of the rawest emotional times that any one can experience, stating at the moment, attendance at a funeral, even for a family member can be a lottery.

“Priests are forced to turn family members away at the doors of Church. This is incredible considering that a shop across the road can often have three or four times this number buying non essentials such as crisps and wine,” he said.

He said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) have not detailed the risks associated with church services and funerals. 

Earlier this month, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has said the easing of restrictions on Mass attendance “has a better statutory claim” than other activities that are “pressed by powerful commercial interests”. 

In a St. Patrick’s Day message, Archbishop Dermot Farrell also described the limit on funeral attendance to 10 people as “harsh and unfair”, repeating previous requests from the church to ease restrictions on funerals

Under the current Level 5 restrictions, 10 mourners are allowed attend funerals, six guests can attend weddings but public Mass cannot take place, with worshippers being  forced to follow Mass online.  

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The Taoiseach is set to make an announcement on Tuesday about what easing of restrictions might take place on 5 April.

Speaking about the need to give the public hope, Labour leader Alan Kelly said the government has lost the dressing room.

“The public are completely lost to the government… they are not listening, they don’t want to listen,” he said, stating the people feel completely been let down.

Next Tuesday’s announcement  by the Taoiseach on the easing of restrictions will have to the “performance of his live”, said Kelly.

He said the EU has “let down” their citizens in relation to the vaccine roll out. 

He said government needs to reassess its strategy, calling its communications “disastrous”. 

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