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Editor's Viewpoint

Funeral's defiance of coronavirus rules puts lives at risk

Editor's Viewpoint


Funeral of ex-Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry

Funeral of ex-Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry

Funeral of ex-Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry

The attendance of a large number of mourners at the funeral of a former Sinn Fein councillor in Tyrone was open defiance of social distancing rules drawn up to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The family of Francis McNally and the church had agreed to abide by the advice, which says that only 10 immediate family members should be present at the burial of a loved one.

However, about 200 people turned up at the funeral. That defiance runs the risk of further spreading the virus.

But it was also hurtful to the families of all those who have died since the lockdown was imposed. They will wonder why the rules were able to be flouted on this occasion while they had abided by them, causing themselves considerable pain at a time of bereavement.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, in whose constituency the funeral took place, was unequivocal in pointing out that the social distancing and funeral rules apply to everyone, and no one is exempt from obeying them. The rules have been imposed to save lives and lessen the burden on the hard-pressed NHS.

It is right that the PSNI is investigating this incident and preparing a file for the Public Prosecution Service. The Church authorities were placed in an impossible situation, but Catholic Primate Eamon Martin should have been more forthright by condemning the flouting of the rules.

The issue of social distancing has gained fresh importance this weekend, with good weather again promised for the traditional Easter period.

Police on both sides of the border have made it clear that they will be doing their utmost to ensure that all journeys being made this weekend are for permissible reasons, such as essential shopping, going to or from work or looking after vulnerable relatives.

It beggars belief that anyone would consider travelling to resorts or holiday homes when the entire country is in lockdown. Swapping one property for another makes little sense unless one is among those idiots who feel it is right to hold house parties at this time.

In her platform piece for this newspaper the Deputy First Minister has made clear the enormous efforts that are being made to bring this pandemic under control. We all can play a part, and while the continued lockdown is a restriction on all our lives, at least it gives more people the chance to survive the disease. What more reason do we need?

Belfast Telegraph