Spreading ceremony Police shut down extravagant Irish wedding party in Algarve for breaking Covid rules
No social distancing or face coverings were used
Armed Portuguese police shut down an extravagant Irish wedding party on the Algarve after a reception was found to be blatantly in breach of strict local Covid-19 regulations.
And cops in the sun-kissed Albufeira resort have since been closely monitoring a series of other Irish nuptials taking place in the area to make sure they are adhering to health and safety rules.
Several plane-loads of guests from the Rathkeale area of Co. Limerick and London attended at least three Irish- related weddings in Albufeira and nearby Vilamoura in the past fortnight.
One local councillor from the Co. Limerick area this week branded the incident "an international embarrassment for Ireland".
"Over 150 people traveling to a wedding in Portugal and coming back is absolutely reckless," Cllr Emmett O'Brien told the Sunday World.
The Adare-Rathkeale local electoral area has twice the national coronavirus infection rate.
The first wedding took place last Saturday week and it appears locals were concerned at a large crowd congregating at a church and contacted police.
When police arrive at the church most of the congregation had gone to a nearby restaurant, where 150 people packed into one room despite restrictions limiting such gatherings to 50.
The initial breach was reported on national TV in Portugal, with footage of the area and interviews with witnesses bearing captions in Portuguese such as 'Irlandes'.
A police spokesperson confirmed to the Sunday World that officers were forced to take action.
"Due to the rules in force concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, which can be found here, the event was stopped and the attendees left the place without any incidents, reason why none of them was formally identified," a spokesperson said.
A press release stated: "The Faro Territorial Command, on the 14th of November, ceased three parties, in different actions, dispersing a total of 310 people who were in disrespect to the norms related to combating the pandemic Covid-19, in Albufeira and Faro.
"In the first situation, in Albufeira, the military of Guarda detected several gatherings of people dressed for a ceremony, and it was possible to ascertain that a wedding party was taking place in a hotel that had the presence of about 150 people. [We] were given instructions to demobilise the site.
"The same night, in Albufeira, the military detected a large number of people in a restaurant. During the inspection, it was possible to determine the presence of 60 people who were also celebrating a wedding. Indication of closure was given to the establishment for having exceeded the permitted capacity."
A third incident, involving a local birthday party with another 100 people, was broken up as well.
Portuguese TV reported on the breaches.
"National police have to end an illegal wedding and birthday party in Albufeira last weekend," the reporter explained.
"The events had around 300 people at the wedding in Albufeira; 150 Irish people flew [in] for the event. Both establishments were cautioned due to disregarding the 50-person maximum rule. The respective owners both also received a fine."
The TV report showed several vintage cars outside the church, which, according to the reporter "was full to capacity and overflowed, with people outside. Half of the wedding party were Irish nationals. Many people did not use a mask".
A witness told Portuguese television that locals rang the police and when officers arrived the wedding was finishing - only the couple and a few other people were present.
The police found the restaurant where the party was happening.
"The restaurant said it was supposed to be 150 people divided amongst two floors," added the report. "However, it had everyone on one floor. The police said that the party must finish because it was breaking the law, despite all off this, 60 people moved on to a different restaurant and continued to break the rules.
"The government is aware of more weddings that are due to occur and are worried that this will happen again in the future. The police are trying to implement steps to prevent this law breaking from reoccurring at these future weddings."
An Irish person based in Portugal who knows many of the guests elaborated on the situation.
"The police intervened with the first one last Saturday because there were more than 50 guests present," she said.
"The second one, on Wednesday, was more controlled and then the third one on Friday had a police escort to the venue to make sure the numbers weren't over 50."
Another source added: "All three got married in a church, so most stood outside and one person went live on Facebook in the church so they could all see it."
Videos and images of celebrations indoors showed no signs of social distancing or face coverings.
According to the latest figures Rathkeale has twice the level of Covid-19 cases as the rest of Ireland, with a rate of 223.7 per 100,000, compared to an average rate of 107.8.
Adare-Rathkeale councillor Emmett O'Brien described the wedding incident which made TV headlines in Portugal as "an international embarrassment for Ireland".
"Over 150 people travelling to a wedding in Portugal and coming back is absolutely reckless," stormed Independent Cllr O'Brien.
"It's a disregard for the State, a disregard for all the very significant trauma that all of us are going through. I have had a personal tragedy because of the collateral effect arising from Covid lockdown and it has been a difficult time. When you have people who are so recklessly disregarding guidelines it's very hard to tolerate."
He added: "I would appeal to anybody firstly not to go to any of these weddings, and if they do go, that they are stopped at the airport and detained for a 14-day period, precautionary.
"There seems to be no power to do that, but I've repeatedly asked for this to be done because it's obvious that if they are going abroad - and they shouldn't really be going unless it's essential travel - they are putting themselves where they are at high risk of infections, then they should not be let back into the country or else mandatorily quarantined."
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