Covid-19: Traveller organisations ask community to obey funeral restrictions

Estimated 200 people attended funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon despite regulations

The organisations said no post-funeral social gatherings are allowed and An Garda Síochána has powers to enforce Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: iStock

The organisations said no post-funeral social gatherings are allowed and An Garda Síochána has powers to enforce Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: iStock

 

Traveller representative organisations have called on the community to obey the rules around attendance at funerals.

On Thursday, an estimated 200 people attended a Traveller funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, of a woman who did not live in the town.

The cortege consisted of a horse-drawn carriage followed by people who were not wearing masks or observing social distancing. They then gathered around the grave afterwards, watched by gardaí.

It is the latest in a series of large gatherings for funerals which have drawn criticism both inside and outside the Travelling community.

There were extended Traveller gatherings recently at funerals in Cork, Wexford, Offaly, Donegal and Dublin.

In a joint statement, the various representative groups called on Travellers to fully adhere to Covid-19 public health measures, including restrictions on funerals.

Under Level 5 restrictions, funerals are reserved for family members and up to a maximum of 10 people can attend in the church and at the graveside, with physical distancing being maintained at all times.

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The organisations said no post-funeral social gatherings are allowed and An Garda Síochána has powers to enforce Covid-19 restrictions during this crisis. Neither are large gatherings allowed for month’s mind and yearly headstone blessings.

‘Long-term view’

The statement said the authors acknowledged restrictions are “not easy and Traveller organisations understand the importance of funerals to bereaved families.

“We want to make sure people take the long-term view on this. We want to make sure that as many people as possible are around to support bereaved families in the future.

“Bereaved families are vulnerable, may be in a state of shock and feel unable to get the message across that it’s okay to stay away from a funeral. But, given the Covid-19 situation, bereaved families do understand that people need to stay at home.

“The reality is that we don’t know who has, or who does not have, the virus – so it is vital that we take all precautions. We are all being encouraged to act as if we all have Covid-19 and that’s why we’ve been told to stay at home as much as possible and not to meet up in groups.”

Instead, Travellers have been advised to express their condolences online and to wait until after the pandemic is over to pay their respects.

The statement is signed by Fr Paul O’ Driscoll the parish priest of the Travelling community; Maria Joyce of the National Traveller Women’s Forum; Martin Collins co-director of the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre; Bernard Joyce of the Irish Traveller Movement; Thomas McCann of the Traveller Counselling Service; Kathleen Sherlock of Minceirs Whiden; James O’Leary of Involve; Kevin Burn of Exchange House Ireland; Nancy Power of National Traveller MABS; and Michael Power of Traveller Voice magazine.

Fr O’Driscoll told The Irish Times that the statement was not prompted by what happened in Carrick-on-Shannon, but “has been on the stove for nearly two weeks now. It’s not a reaction to that”.

He said the statement was coming from a “place of good concern” in relation to the Traveller welfare and many Travellers are struggling with the third lockdown. “It’s true of the Irish nation in general, but it’s also true of Travellers.”

He hoped that by issuing a joint statement and circulating it through social media that the message will get through “to more and more people”.

He said Travellers found it difficult to stay away from a funeral, especially if there is a “pathos” surrounding the death of young people, as had been the case in Carrick-on-Shannon.