Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has criticised the Government’s pandemic plan, saying he saw “no logic in deferring the phased re-opening of places of worship until July”, while sporting events and restaurants will open in June.
Mr Tóibín called on the Taoiseach to “listen to the concerns of faith groups and their detailed ideas and plans” on reopening places of worship.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, he said: “I think it’s important to every religious community that they do get a chance to celebrate in community settings. Aspects of people’s faith can’t be experienced remotely and people feel the loss of that.”
He added that people were angered recently at images of the Leo Varadkar and hundreds of people gathered in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
“Hundreds of people gather in Phoenix Park in social distanced fashion, but many people feel they can’t attend funerals in social distanced fashion in a graveyard, which can often be big spaces,” he said.
Mr Tóibín said that the fact that religious services are “basically banned” adds to the “isolation and loneliness that people experience”.
“For a lot of people, especially people who are retired…daily Mass is part of their engagement with the outside world on a daily basis,” the party leader said.
He said that this affects all communities and hits immigrant communities especially hard.
“For many immigrant communities coming into the country, the churches they attend have a spiritual and religious aspect, but also play a strong social role in terms of supporting each other in their new country.”
Mr Tóibín said that he thinks it is time “to look at how we can, as people of faith, actually celebrate and participate in communal religious practices”.
“There are solutions, definitely solutions, for people to remain safe and protect their health and yet participate in religious services,” he said.