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Covid breach Over 200 people flout restrictions at funeral after Gardai stop 60 attending separate burial

The incidents come just weeks after widespread condemnation of a 300-strong crowd attending a separate funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon.

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Mourners at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

Mourners at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

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Mourners at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

More than 200 people attended a funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon in breach of Covid restrictions yesterday, one day after gardaí prevented 60 people from entering a cemetery following a separate funeral in Galway.

The incidents come just weeks after widespread condemnation of a 300-strong crowd attending a separate funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Gardaí had set up checkpoints in the Leitrim town yesterday ahead of the funeral of popular local man Edward Stokes (84) but that failed to deter an estimated 200 people going to St Mary's Cemetery for his burial.

The same cemetery saw a crowd of 300 turn out for the burial of Davey Reilly on March 11 before breaching Garda checkpoints to attend an event in a marquee at Shannonside View halting site afterwards.

Mr Stokes's funeral Mass took place yesterday at St Mary's Church before his remains were brought by horse-drawn carriage to Shannonside View and then onto St Mary's Cemetery, where a large crowd had already gathered.

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St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

St. Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick on Shannon.

Witnesses said around 200 people were in attendance despite Covid restrictions, which state only 10 people can attend a burial.

They added that numerous UK-registered cars were parked up around the area.

A Garda spokesman said a policing plan was carried out around the funeral over the weekend.

"An Garda Síochána liaised with the relevant parties in advance and is not investigating any breaches in respect of the church element of this funeral. Funerals are not a penal regulation.

"An Garda Síochána will carry out an investigation into the organisers of any event which is in breach of the public health regulations.

The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No.10) Regulations 2020 are currently in force.

"This places certain restrictions on individuals organising relevant events outdoors and on travel outside the home except with reasonable excuse.

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The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

"In supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines and regulations, An Garda Síochána has and will continue to adopt, a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent...

"Personal social responsibility, wearing of face coverings in open spaces and social distancing are public health guidelines and are not penal regulations."

There was widespread condemnation after almost 300 people attended Davey Reilly's burial in the same cemetery on March 11.

The crowd packed together and ignored social-distancing guidelines as they attended the burial at St Mary's Cemetery in Carrick-on-Shannon on March 11.

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 The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

The scene outside Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh. Friday 26/3/21

A marquee was also set up at a local halting site to hold a reception after the funeral and numerous cars from the UK descended on the area for the event.

Gardaí set up a checkpoint near the marquee to try to prevent mourners from attending, but many broke through and made their way in.

Two people were arrested and more than 80 fixed penalty notices were issued by gardaí as part of the operation.

Council staff have since erected bollards where the previous marquee was erected.

Gardaí around the country have been putting policing plans in action for funerals where large crowds are expected to attend in breach of Covid restrictions.

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 The scene near Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh, where Gardai stopped and spoke to motorists on Friday 26/3/21

The scene near Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh, where Gardai stopped and spoke to motorists on Friday 26/3/21

The scene near Rahoon Cemetery, Galway, for the funeral of Thomas ‘Tommy’ McDonagh, where Gardai stopped and spoke to motorists on Friday 26/3/21

There were also tense scenes in Galway this weekend when gardaí stopped dozens of people from going into a graveyard to attend a funeral.

Gardaí had put an operation in place ahead of the funeral of Tommy McDonagh in Rahoon on Friday.

Due to Covid restrictions only 10 people are allowed into the graveyard, but around 60 people arrived at Rahoon Cemetery hoping to enter, but gardaí told them they couldn't.

A witness said: "There were a couple of Garda checkpoints stopping cars and telling them they couldn't park up at the graveyard. The hearse came in and they closed the gate behind it and wouldn't let any other cars in.

"There was a bit of argument between some of the mourners and the guards. After that the Armed Support Unit came down."

The witness said many of the mourners who arrived were wearing masks and others parked near the cemetery and didn't get out of their vehicles.

A small contingent of mourners went into the graveyard while another group waited outside.

"There were two lads sent off by the guards but no one was arrested. The crowd stayed for about 15 minutes and dispersed."

One of the mourners pointed out there was a large turnout the previous day on the streets of Castlebar for the funeral of well-known local man Leo O'Shaughnessy.

Dozens of people followed the hearse carrying Mr O'Shaughnessy's coffin through the streets of the town on Thursday, with the majority wearing masks and socially distancing.

There have been several other large funerals around the country in recent months in breach of guidelines.

HSE chief Paul Reid condemned the scenes following Davey Reilly's funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon earlier this month and said funerals in general are a risk factor.

"We know and experienced throughout this year, very high transmission levels at funerals all across the country in many communities," he said.

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