Banning Church and Jailing Grandma: Stories from Lockdown Ireland
Between banning church attendance and jailing grandmas, Ireland has had a bizarre time with the Chinese Coronavirus during 2021.
2021 has been a strange year for Ireland.
The island — which has kept a stringent mask mandate in place for the entire year — has gone as far as banning in-person religious gatherings, attempting to censor journalists, and even jailing a grandma.
All this in the name of curtailing the Chinese Coronavirus.
Despite implementing harsh restrictions, however, there were multiple times during the year where rules were bent, if not outright broken, by those with political and social power in the country.
With this in mind, here are a few stories you may have missed from the Emerald Isle…
Irish Government Renders Church Going Illegal:
For slightly over a third of 2021, if you went to church on Sunday in Ireland, you were breaking the law.
Starting in late 2020, a ban on in-person religious worship was in place in Ireland, with all ceremonies being mandated to take place online only.
At one stage, even meeting a priest outdoors for the Catholic sacrament of confession was rendered illegal, despite a contemporary report at the time claiming that only 0.1 per cent of Irish COVID cases were linked to outdoor exposure.
The ban on religious gatherings culminated with Gardaí breaking up a Latin Mass in County Westmeath, with video of the incident gaining hundreds of thousands of views shortly before the ban was lifted.
Gardai storming a Catholic Church today in Athlone. pic.twitter.com/Lb8CHHm6sl
— Catholic Arena (@CatholicArena) April 25, 2021
The ban did not go unopposed.
Irish entrepreneur Declan Ganley took a case to the High Court late in 2020 in the hopes of challenging a similar ban on in-person services that was put in place earlier that year.
“Based on HSE data, our client does not believe that public masses are associated with any greater risk of Covid-19 infection than other important activities, including schooling and childcare, which are permitted under current regulations,” a statement issued by Ganley’s solicitor read.
After being deferred a number of times, Ganley’s challenge was eventually thrown out of the High Court earlier this month, the judge ruling that Ganley’s case was “moot” as the ban on in-person religious worship was no longer in place.
This is despite the fact that the ban, as previously, has come and gone before.
Protests Also Bad…:
The Irish government also stringently opposed acts of protest during this year.
While never technically illegal to protest in the country, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties criticised the lack of clarity and guidelines for how protests could be safely and legally organised early in 2021.
Although the status of protesting remained ambiguous in Ireland at times during the pandemic, the view of politicians regarding anti-lockdown and other anti-government protests remained crystal clear.
More video from yesterday’s Anti-Lockdown protest on Grafton Street.A number of rockets were fired at Garda leaving one in hospital. pic.twitter.com/n4qUnEJFrU
— Padraig O’Reilly Photographer (@padraig_reilly) February 28, 2021
After one anti-lockdown protest in February resulted in a number of clashes with police, politicians were quick to condemn protesters regarding the effect they would have on the spread of COVID.
“The large gathering, in the face of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, showed a complete lack of respect to the people who have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic,” said Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin.
“Horrified to see this on our streets. Irish people have spent last year fighting Covid. There is no excuse for violence to Gardaí or anyone,” wrote Deputy PM (Tánaiste) Leo Varadkar online. “This behaviour on Grafton St by a selfish few undermines sacrifices that millions have made in the last 12 months.”
Varadkar was also later revealed to have written to social media companies in order to ask them to take steps to prevent protests from being organised.
“This behaviour by a selfish few undermines the sacrifices that millions have made in the last 12 months,” Varadkar wrote in a letter sent to internet giants Facebook, Twitter, Google and Tiktok. “I’m writing to see how you can help prevent the promotion of such gatherings in future, to minimise the risk to public health and to prevent the spread of false information.”
One member of parliament even suggest a future protest be banned because of the day’s events.
“It is clear that subversive elements used the opportunity presented by this protest to spread their far-right propaganda, dangerous anti-science rhetoric and ultimately attack our Gardaí,” Neale Richmond TD said. “The consequences for attending protests can be damaging not just because they are super spreader events but because they can quickly descend into illegal chaos.”
…but Not Always…
Header featured image (edited) credit: Sidewalk Pub/Getty Image
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