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DUP's Donaldson reveals pain of being unable to visit father 'fighting final battle'

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has revealed his father Jim is "fighting his final battle".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has revealed his father Jim is "fighting his final battle".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has revealed his father Jim is "fighting his final battle".

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has spoken of his pain of being unable to visit his elderly father Jim as he "fights his final battle".

His comments came as a split developed in the Executive on the reopening of cemeteries.

Sir Jeffrey said he and his family were contemplating final arrangements for his father.

"It's not an easy time," he told the BBC Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Ulster.

"We're a big family, we're a close family and it's tough at the moment. There are many families in Northern Ireland going through this.

"There isn't going to be a church service so it's a very different scenario."

Sir Jeffrey said he supported calls for cemeteries to reopen across Northern Ireland on a "controlled basis". He said his party has been contacted by members of the public and churches on the issue, and some had "heartbreaking stories" to tell.

He said he supported the measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus but as parks were reopened, there was "merit" in discussing opening cemeteries.

"Having a funeral in this country, having a wake for example is a very important part of the grieving process for most people," he said.

"It's not just our family, it's the wider local community that are impacted," he said, revealing how his family had tried to communicate with his father through a window up until recently.

"I just ask that people think about the families that have lost loved ones in recent weeks... who probably feel isolated right now."

Although cemeteries are operated by councils as well as privately owned by churches, Stormont holds the legal power to decide when they should reopen.

Sir Jeffrey said it was "about making balanced judgments".

He added: "One of the issues we're going to have to deal with going forward... is the impact on the mental health of our population is something we're going to have to consider.

"We allow people to go out to the supermarket where they queue up," he said.

"We believe it is possible to put in place measures - limit the opening times, limit the numbers in the cemeteries at any one time and put in place a system whereby you don't have people passing each other.

"We believe that it is possible to do this safely," he said.

Meanwhile, on Good Morning Ulster Minister for Agriculture and the Environment Edwin Poots said his father Charlie's condition had deteriorated after he fell at his home outside Lisburn earlier this month.

The DUP MLA for Lagan Valley has not been allowed visit his father in Ulster Hospital in line with new restrictions but praised staff who are taking care of his 90-year-old father.

"He had been doing reasonably well but unfortunately he isn't doing so well at the minute. It is a matter of concern for the family at this time," he said.

"The hospital are doing a superb job and providing good care for him and the healthcare system that we have in this country is something which needs to be cherished.

"It's extremely difficult for him because he's 90 now and for older people it is really a desperate situation and it's a very difficult situation for families," he said.

Belfast Telegraph