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'nothing wrong' Priest who held regular Sunday mass during lockdown says nobody 'got Covid from being in there'

He says often more than 50 people attend the mass

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A parish priest has defended staging regular Sunday morning masses during the Covid-19 lockdown saying that no person has got the virus from attending his masses.

Fr Willie Cummins, parish priest of Ennistymon, was speaking today after 48 people attended 11am mass at the local Catholic church in the north Clare town.

At the end of today’s mass, Fr Cummins told parishoners from the altar: “Thank you all for coming and with the help of God, there will be even more next Sunday.”

From Monday, priests can celebrate masses with 50 people - however, during the Level 5 lockdown, it has been a criminal offence to attend public mass, other than funerals and weddings.

In an interview outside the church after mass ended today, Fr Cummins said: “There hasn’t been one person who has got Covid from being in there.”

Asked how many Sundays he has celebrated mass during the current lockdown, he said: “The whole time.”

When asked was 50 the average attendance at his 11am mass on a Sunday, he replied: “There would often be some more.”

He said he was not worried about a backlash after holding the masses, adding: “I am not doing anything wrong.”

Fr Cummins said the people attending his mass “haven’t been put at risk”.

“Look at the size of the church. It is all sanitised and the doors are left open all day.”

During mass on Sunday in the large church, there was one person in each row separated by two rows to the next person with the vast majority of mass goers wearing facemasks.

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Fr Cummins said: “I wouldn’t do it if I was causing trouble.

“A packed Church wouldn’t happen and that wouldn’t be right.”

On his way from Church to deliver communion to parishioners unable to attend mass, Fr Cummins said: “Look at the size and the height of the Church here”.

He said the Government and people who are making up the rules “don’t give an ounce of intelligence to anybody”.

“Let us use our own bit of common sense,” he added.

“There are too many people who love this old messing - making rules for everyone and telling others what to do. I don’t tell anyone what to do. I invite them and try to get them to see for themselves what way mass is being said.

“Go to Lahinch and see the crowds there at the weekends and from Thursday evening on, every second car going there is a ‘D’ reg.”

Asked if gardaí have been in touch concerning the Sunday morning masses, Fr Cummins replied: “No, the gardaí are very understanding people.”

Asked if he had informed his bishop, Bishop of Galway, Brendan Kelly, of the Sunday masses, Fr Cummins replied: “Someone else told him.”

An Ennis man who is a regular at the 11am mass at Ennistymon church during the lockdown said: “Fr Willie is doing what he should be doing as a priest.”

He added that attending the mass was “absolutely safe” and he had no concerns over this health about it.

“I’ve no worries. Absolutely none. It is a big church. We are all socially distant from each other. I never had a moment’s worry and I would have underlying conditions but I never had any concern in here. None whatsoever.”

The mass goer - who preferred not to be named - said he has been at the 11am Sunday mass for the last number of weeks “and there have been no issues”.

He said that attending mass “has helped to get me through the lockdown”.

"(It) keeps me going because mass is very important to me and getting Holy Communion is very important to me. It keeps me going for the week”.

A daily mass goer for many years, the man said he has had his two Covid-19 vaccine jabs.

He said Government restrictions on mass “has had a huge effect on the older generation. They have been cut off from it”.

The most recent Covid-19 figures for the north Clare electoral area that contains Ennistymon show it has one of the lowest Covid-19 rates in the country with fewer than five cases in the most recently fortnightly period to May 3.

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