A GROUP of TDs and Senators have held a protest outside Leinster House calling for church services to be allowed to take place during Easter.
Members of the Oireachtas stood outside Leinster House yesterday calling for churches to be allowed reopen for limited attendance during Easter week as religious people face their second year in a row unable to attend mass.
Members of the Dáil's rural independent group, as well as other Oireachtas members such as Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry and Aontú's Peader Tóibín, stood holding plinths with slogans such as #LetUsGoToMass, #RightToWorship and #DontCancelEaster.
The TDs and Senators state that religious worship is vital for people's mental health, particularly those who have been greatly struggling over the past year and those who may have lost a loved one and been unable to properly say goodbye.
The religious community is being completely ignored by the government, they say, and while other countries have introduced measures to allow church services to continue in a safe way, Ireland has some of the strictest measures in the world.
The right to worship is a constitutional right, and restrictions are causing stress and hurt among Catholics; Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín referenced a priest in Cavan who was last week fined €500 for allowing parishioners to enter the church while he said mass.
"Religious practice is a human right according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights," he said.
"It is an essential element in the lives of many many people in Ireland. Religious practice plays a significant roll in the well-being of many people in these dark times."
"Treating adults like children with illogical restrictions will result in people not adhering to restrictions at all. Its clear that in the last few weeks the Government is losing the people on restrictions.
"We are asking the government to allow people to safely attend services around Ireland this Easter”.
Independent Senator Sharon Keoan said "No-one is calling for '200 people packed into a small building'-- we’re talking about limitations on the number of people allowed at mass, and strict measures in place to prevent people gathering outside before and/or after ceremonies.
Today I held my first photo call on the plinth of Dail Eireann.
As you can see it's an issue very important to my...
Those protesting claim the National Public Health Emergency Team have not properly detailed the risk of transmission in attending mass, and say the measures introduced when Ireland was in a lower level of restrictions had allowed people to worship safely.
Their calls echo that of Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell, who last week called for more people to be allowed attend a funeral, calling the 10-person limit "harsh and unfair".
Dr Farrell argued that churches were able to operate safely when restrictions were last eased and up to 50 had been allowed to attend church services, with strict measures such as social distancing, hand sanitiser and different entrances being used to keep people safe.
People are "not going to accept a situation where they are being locked out of worship" until Ireland finally reaches low enough cases for things to reopen, Dr Farrell argued as reported by The Irish Times.