MINISTER for Health Stephen Donnelly has issued a stark warning to Catholic bishops, urging them not to resume religious services such as First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.
He warned that by flaunting public health advice, which currently prohibits religious ceremonies, the Church was putting lives at risk.
"When you're dealing with a deadly virus, ultimately what you're doing is putting people's lives at risk," Minister Donnelly said in response to news that three Catholic bishops have announced their intention to resume Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.
Of the rebel Bishops, Kevin Doran, said: "The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely," before arguing that the public health restrictions prohibiting the ceremonies were simply "guidelines" and not a binding law.
Under current Covid-19 guidelines, places of worship are open for religious services for up to 50 people but major ceremonies are not allowed to take place.
Donnelly admitted that public health measures had been "very difficult for people of faith and for religious institutions," but commended the manner in which "the churches have played, and continue to play, an essential role in Ireland’s national efforts to suppress Covid."
Ireland "is doing well and we need to stick with it the measures in place for a little longer", he added.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed Minister Donnelly's concerns and warned against the resumption of major religious services, noting that the sole motivation behind such restrictions was to "protect lives" and signalled his strong disapproval of "any unilateral breaching of regulations".
However independent TD Mattie McGrath insists it's completely nonsensical for church ceremonies to remain off the cards while stadia across the country are reopening.
"It is disgraceful. Obviously [the Government has] an agenda. In a situation where you will have 40,000 people in Croke Park how can you ban small ceremonies like this?" He said.
"People need spiritual nourishment. They have never needed it more. These sacraments are very important to people. The Government will face a rural revolt if these restrictions continue."