Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Breaches at both unionist and nationalist funerals

Funerals Image copyright Getty Images

A senior police officer has said there have been social-distancing breaches at funerals in NI in both the unionist and nationalist communities.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said police are speaking to bereaved families and funeral directors to ensure guidelines issued by the Stormont executive are respected.

Funerals are restricted to a maximum of 10 mourners.

However, on occasions, dozens of people have gathered to pay their respects.

There have been reported incidents in a number of places including Ballymena and west Belfast.

The Stormont guidelines say:

  • Wakes should not be held
  • No remains should be taken home
  • Funeral services should not be held in family homes

'Guidelines rather than laws'

ACC Todd said: "We're seeing breaches of the health-protection regulations in respect of funerals across communities in Northern Ireland, both from a nationalist background and a unionist background.

"The approach from policing is the same in both circumstances," he said.

"We will engage with the families concerned, the clergy and the funeral directors and seek assurances that people will do the best they can to ensure the health-protection guidelines are complied with," he added.

Significantly, they are are guidelines rather than laws.

'Funeral directors caught in middle'

Nonetheless, all involved in funerals are expected by the authorities to adhere to the rules.

William Millar, a funeral director from County Antrim, said: "Some of our funeral directors have done things under duress that they shouldn't be doing. They're just caught in the middle.

"We're still caring (for the deceased) but it's making our job even harder."

There is a recognition by police and politicians that the issue needs to be handled sensitively.

The ongoing restrictions are currently being reviewed by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland but there is no sign yet that changes are imminent.

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