Traveller chaplain urges members to follow social distancing advice

The chaplain to Cork's Traveller community has encouraged its members to follow public health advice after almost 200 people attended a burial in the city.
Traveller chaplain urges members to follow social distancing advice

General view of headstones/graves in Kilkully Cemetery, Co Cork, on the outskirts of Cork City. Pic: Larry Cummins.
General view of headstones/graves in Kilkully Cemetery, Co Cork, on the outskirts of Cork City. Pic: Larry Cummins.

The chaplain to Cork’’s Traveller community has encouraged its members to follow public health advice after almost 200 people attended a burial in the city.

Fr Oscar O'Leary, who has ministered to Travellers for almost 25-years, made his comments last night after the funeral at St Catherine’’s Cemetery in Kilcully.

Only a handful of the immediate family attended the Reqiuem Mass, sitting apart. But despite pleas from the family for people to stay away from the cemetery, an estimated 200 people went to the cemetery.

Fr Oscar said Travellers are people of great faith and added: "They did the very best they could. But I would encourage them to follow the public health advice and the guidelines."

It’’s understood that the family has lost several family members in sudden and tragic circumstances in recent days and face another funeral soon.

Green Party Cllr Oliver Moran, who chairs the city council’’s Traveller Accommodation Committee, said it’’s immensely difficult for people to grieve at this time - especially for a family experiencing tragedy at this scale.

"It’’s natural that people will want to show their respects. The family asked that the funeral be family only and that mourners practice social distancing. There was a message on social media from the family to keep numbers down and respect HSE guidelines," he said.

"We have to find new ways to do show respect at this time. The best way, I believe, to honour the family and the deceased is to honour that request."

Following the Covid-19 outbreak, the HSE has had very strict guidelines in place for funerals since the end of March.

Funeral masses are restricted to a maximum of 10 people, apart from the priest and undertakers.

Social distancing must be maintained with no handshaking or hugging and numbers in cemeteries must be limited.

A spokesperson for the diocese of Cork and Ross said Bishop Fintan Gavin and the clergy realise that such restrictions are "burdensome".

"The diocese is happy to cooperate with statutory and local authorities to find ways to support grieving families while also attending to keeping safe all who are involved by ensuring that social distancing and other requirements are met," he said.

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