Rural TDs push for limited numbers to be allowed gather in places of worship for Easter

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TDs accused the government of being anti-Christian and anti-religion during a Dáil discussion this evening.

RURAL INDEPENDENT TDS have called for places of worship to be allowed open for small congregations on Easter.

Mattie McGrath, Carol Nolan and Michael Collins raised the proposal in the Dáil this evening as a topical issue.

The TDs want to see places of worship permitted to open on a limited basis for Easter.

However, they were told that Easter will need to be celebrated virtually in line with current restrictions.

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte said that “based on the current epidemiology situation and the public health restrictions that are in place, it will be necessary to celebrate Easter online at home this year”.

“This is for the protection of our friends, our families and our wider communities. The basic public health advice and regulatory measures aimed at blocking the transmission of Covid-19 from person to person remain vital,” Rabbitte said.

“I would like to assure the deputies that I’m extremely conscious of the burdens that have been placed on society as a result of the restrictions that have been imposed,” she said.

Many people have been unable to live their lives the way they normally would or participate in the usual rhythms of their community, and I know that everyday very many people in Ireland have not been able to go to a local church. It has been particularly difficult during this Lenten period and also again during Holy Week.”

“Unfortunately, as the members of the House know, the environment in which Covid spreads most easily is indoors where a group of people are gathered.”

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said that the right to worship was a sensitive and important issue to tens of thousands of people and criticised the restrictions on gatherings.

“This Cabinet will go down in history as the most anti-Christian Cabinet in government of all time,” McGrath said.

Similarly, Laois-Offaly TD Carol Nolan said that it is “fundamentally wrong to deny the people of Ireland the right to attend mass or service or worship, depending on their religion”.

“This government needs to be fair on people and show some compassion,” Nolan said.

“It is a very dark time for many, so why not give them the solace of attending their churches,” she said.

“We’re in a very serious situation. I believe it was very very wrong to ban public worship and very unfair on people.”

Independent TDs for Cork South-West, Michael Collins, and Limerick, Richard O’Donoghue, also supported a reopening of churches.

Collins said that “next week is a hugely important week in the church calendar” and that it is “upsetting for people to think that they can’t go inside their own churches”.

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“It’s a shameful act and it’s time for this government to sit up and step back and not be so anti-church,” he said.

O’Donoghue asked: “Is this government anti-religion?”

“This government needs to stand up. Let people worship like we always did,” O’Donoghue said.

The TDs referenced a court case in Scotland which found that Covid-19 regulations went further than was lawful in restricting places of worship, resulting in them being allowed to reopen.

Under Ireland’s current restrictions, places of worship are permitted to open for private prayer, but services must be held online.

Attendance at funerals is limited to ten people.

Candles inside Saint Peter's Church, Drogheda.

Candles inside Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda.

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