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Northern Ireland cemetery closures: your questions answered

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Milltown Cemetery

Milltown Cemetery

Milltown Cemetery

What does the emergency law say?

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, which came into force on March 28, state at Section (4) point (8): "A person who is responsible for a crematorium or burial ground must ensure that, during the emergency period, the crematorium or burial ground is closed to members of the public, except for funerals or burials."

How does the law compare to England and Republic of Ireland?

The decision to close cemeteries in England lies with the local councils. Councils such as Cromer Town Council, in Norfolk, and City of Lincoln Council reversed their decision to close their cemeteries following the latest government advice, they said. In the Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, all cemeteries are open to the public but there are the same funeral restrictions as here in Northern Ireland.

Does the law apply to council and church cemeteries?

The law applies to both council and church cemeteries. However, due to the nature of some church cemeteries, it is not physically possible to close off the grounds to the public.

What happens when a funeral is taking place?

A maximum of 10 close family members can be present at the funeral of a loved one - with social distancing in place - at private services and committals at cemeteries.

Whose decision is it to reopen the cemeteries?

While cemeteries are operated by local councils in Northern Ireland, it is ultimately the Stormont Executive that holds the legal power to decide if and when they should be reopened to members of the public.

Belfast Telegraph