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No reason why cemetery visits should be prevented – Swann

Stormont’s Health Minister said he hoped his executive colleagues could agree a ‘reasonable position’ that would enable graveyards to reopen.

Stormont’s health minister has urged his executive colleagues to allow the reopening of cemeteries.

Robin Swann said he saw no reason why people should be prevented from visiting graveyards if there was a system in place to ensure access was managed in compliance with social distancing rules.

Council-run graveyards were closed in Northern Ireland last month as part of the coronavirus movement restrictions.

There have been mounting calls to reopen them, with bereaved relatives highlighting the mental anguish of being prevented from visiting the graveside of loved ones.

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Robin Swann said people could find solace and support in a visit to a family grave (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

Robin Swann said people could find solace and support in a visit to a family grave (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

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Robin Swann said people could find solace and support in a visit to a family grave (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

The issue has divided parties in the powersharing executive.

The DUP and UUP support reopening, while Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party have said they remain opposed.

Mr Swann was asked about the issue at the Covid-19 briefing at Stormont on Wednesday.

The UUP minister said: “In regards to cemeteries, as health minister I would see no reason why people couldn’t be visiting cemeteries at this minute in time.

“There is a solace, a support there that many individuals can gain from visiting a cemetery and it’s something when we reflect on where we have been and where we are now it’s a regulation that I think we as an executive should actually challenge and change.

“Because we have to realise the mental challenge that we’re putting on many individuals by asking them to remain in lock-down, and some will receive solace and support by visiting the graves of loved ones.

“It’s something that I hope the executive can come to a reasonable position on where we can open up cemeteries in a managed way.

“Should it be in a one direction approach round the cemeteries in a single file or the number of people entering cemeteries or the actual time of day that cemeteries are open, but I think it’s an approach that we as an executive should be looking to.”

PA