Garda appeal for people to 'sympathise safely' with bereaved causes hurt and anger
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Garda appeal for people to 'sympathise safely' with bereaved causes hurt and anger

A NEW public health appeal has caused hurt and anger online after Gardaí urged people to 'sympathise safely'.

The new appeal asks people to think of ways they can express their condolences to a person who has lost a loved one without seeing them in person, such as through a text message, social media message or phone call.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across Ireland, and the number of people allowed at a funeral set at no more than 10, thousands of people have suffered through the death of a loved one without being able to give them a proper send-off or receive support from friends or extended family.

This has, tragically, been necessary in Ireland for close to a year now, but the hurt caused is still understandably raw.

Yesterday, An Garda Síochána posted an image urging people to 'Sympathise Safely', with a list of 'some ways that you can safely sympathise with the bereaved'.

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It’s okay not to attend a wake, funeral service, burial or cremation these days because only 10 mourners are allowed due...

Posted by An Garda Síochána on Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The post listed online condolence books, sympathy cards and emails among the safe ways to sympathise, and a caption alongside the image reads:

"It’s okay not to attend a wake, funeral service, burial or cremation these days because only 10 mourners are allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"There are other ways to sympathise until the restrictions are lifted. Let’s use them."

The appeal, while unfortunately necessary, drew comments of hurt and anger from people who had been affected by the rules, with many accusing the post of being "insensitive".

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One woman who buried her brother-in-law last May said "it was horrible that his friends couldn't pay their respects properly. You need your friend and family at a time like this and coming up to his anniversary it's probably going to be the same again. This is a very insensitive post I think."

"That is the most insensitive, hurtful post I have ever read," one man wrote. "Shame on each and every one of you. Disgraceful and disturbing."

Another said the post was "uncalled for", and said funerals are "our last chance to pay our respects ... weddings and parties can be postponed but you can't postpone a funeral".

One woman described funeral restrictions as "barbaric" and said "it will have a detrimental [effect] in mental health in the long term.

"Many families have more than 10 just between children and partners. How do [you] pick and choose who goes. How do you explain to children who probably haven't seen their grandparent for year that they can't go to their funeral.

"A funeral is a final journey and it's very important part of the grieving process."

Gardaí have had to intervene in a number of funerals in recent weeks and months after more than the allowed number of mourners gathered, in some cases up to hundreds attending a ceremony or burial.

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Some outbreaks of Covid-19 have been traced back to funerals in the past.

Under Level 5 restrictions, no more than 10 people can attend a funeral, and house visits are forbidden.

Under Level 4 and Level 3, 25 mourners can attend a funeral, rising to 50 in Level 2 and Level 1.

It is unclear when Level 5 will end in Ireland, as while daily confirmed cases have dropped significantly since the peak in early January, numbers remain in the high hundreds.

A possible easing of some restrictions are expected to be announced in March, with the potential for phased reopening of schools, construction allowed to return and possible outdoor household mixing allowed, but there will be no 'significant' reopening of wider society.