Mass confusion | 

Up to 50 allowed at mass from mid-May, but not for weddings or funerals

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach confirmed the figure of 50 was now being studied by ministers, but reinforced that there was “not necessarily” any inference to be drawn with funerals and weddings.
(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Senan Molony

The Government is planning to allow up to 50 people at mass and regular religious services from mid-May – but not for funerals or weddings.

There will be no further increase in the number allowed to attend a funeral mass, which rises from just 10 to 25 from today, the Irish Independent has learned.

Nor has there been any discussion of allowing the numbers at a wedding ceremony to increase.

It is pegged at six guests at present, excluding the couple exchanging vows.

Senior Government sources accepted last night such a decision may lead to accusations of mixed messages. “The difference is that people go home after an ordinary mass or service, or ceremony in other faiths,” said a source close to the Taoiseach.

“At weddings and funerals there would be an indoor element. People usually go to places afterwards,” the source said.

“And a wake is a huge thing, outside Dublin. If you suddenly say 50 are allowed at a funeral mass, that will be taken back as regards the wake.

“So the Government is considering 50 in a congregation, but only for ordinary religious services.”

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach confirmed the figure of 50 was now being studied by ministers, but reinforced that there was “not necessarily” any inference to be drawn with funerals and weddings.

“Nobody has said there is any correlation, whatever might be argued as to what might be logical.”

The Taoiseach said on The Week in Politics on RTÉ yesterday: “We said we would examine religious services. But we understand the danger of indoor.”

He denied in the Dáil last week the Government was in any way anti-religious.

Next month is usually the time for a wave of First Holy Communions around the country, but these have been put on hold. Even if they were allowed, there is currently no discussion under way as to any permissible numbers.

No decisions have been taken as yet, several sources stressed, with ministers due to decide on relaxations on Thursday, after Nphet briefs a Cabinet subcommittee with recommendations the night before.

A number of changes will take place from May 4, which is Tuesday of next week,

The Cabinet meets tomorrow but will not address the issue.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday the relaxations would cover non-essential services, personal services, such as hairdressing and barbering, museums and galleries, and religious services.

There would also be a ‘roadmap for the summer’ with indications of when other freedoms could follow, although “sometimes plans need to change,” he said.

It is widely expected the beer gardens and outside dining will be allowed from June.

The Taoiseach said yesterday this would be an “outdoors summer.” There is no sign as yet of any return to indoor dining or drinking.

Mr Martin attends Dublin Zoo today to mark outdoor parks reopening to visitors. Underage sport also comes back, with outdoors non-contact training for the under-18s.

“We’re going to continue to follow the science and of course outdoor is the theme for the summer,” Mr Martin said, admitting the Government was being cautious, and saying he was “getting it in the neck” about reopening.

“Anything we open now, we want to stay open,” he told RTÉ. “We want to end this start/stop/close. Many people in different sectors have said that to us.”

Sports training outdoors for the over-18s was also expected to resume in May, the Taoiseach said, while the Government would ponder relaxations in non-essential retail and areas like hairdressing next month.

The Government is under increasing pressure to allow limited numbers of the laity at religious services.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly revealed to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last Wednesday that he had been in contact with the Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell on the matter.

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