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Ministers' worries as churches preparing to resume weddings

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces further lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces further lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces further lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Cabinet ministers have voiced concerns about the impact of easing Covid-19 restrictions on church-goers and couples planning to get married.

Fears were raised after the Government agreed to allow 50 people to attend indoor events such as masses and weddings.

However, several ministers said the easing of social-distancing rules did not take into account that some churches were bigger than others and would be able to safely host more than 50 people.

Pressure

Ministers are coming under increasing pressure from constituents who have weddings booked for the coming months and are anxious to obtain clarity on how many people will be able to attend.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe and Business Minister Heather Humphreys both called for more information on when weddings can take place.

Mr Kehoe said more analysis should be done on the number of people who can attend masses as the new rules did not factor in the sizes of churches or the number of people in a family unit.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Health Minister Sim- on Harris said venues, including churches, would only be able to host 50 people as long as they adhered to social-distancing rules.

Under the new rules, mass gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors will be allowed from June 29.

This will increase to 100 people indoors and 500 outside on July 20 if the coronavirus is contained.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday no date had been set for increasing the number of people allowed to attend gatherings.

He said the Government would continue to review the situation every three weeks.

Separately, the Taoiseach announced that hairdressers, cinemas and gyms can begin to reopen from June 29.

Following discussions with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the Cabinet has signed off on new guidelines that will allow the reopening of hairdressers and barbers to be brought forward to this phase.

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Hotels and private venues will be allowed to hold weddings from Friday. (stock image)

Hotels and private venues will be allowed to hold weddings from Friday. (stock image)

Hotels and private venues will be allowed to hold weddings from Friday. (stock image)

Under the original road map, hairdressers were due to reopen on July 20, but that date has been brought forward as part of the revised phase three.

All sporting activities have also been given the go-ahead to resume on June 29, "with a very limited numbers of spectators".

Gyms and swimming pools are allowed to reopen on the condition that they limit numbers and adopt a strict hygiene policy.

"I'm making this announcement today to give people time to prepare and so places can be ready to reopen," Mr Varadkar said.

"For example, churches and places of worship, gyms, cinemas, leisure facilities and, yes, hairdressers, beauticians and barber shops in phase three, which we expect to commence on Monday, June 29.

"All sporting activities, including close contact sports, can resume. This includes team leagues for adults and children."

The Government has also extended rental protection for tenants affected by the Covid-19 emergency until July 20.

Evicted

In March, the Government introduced measures to protect tenants.

These included a ban on being evicted from your home, being served with a notice of termination by your landlord or having your rent increased.

The rules were put in place for three months, and this was due to expire shortly. However, the Cabinet yesterday extended the protection to next month.

The Government also agreed a €70m bailout fund for sporting organisations affected by Covid-19.

This includes a pot of more than €40m for the GAA, IRFU and FAI.

There is also funding for smaller sporting clubs.

The money will be administered by Sporting Ireland.

Sports Minister Shane Ross said the sector had been "sev- erely impacted" by the pandemic and many bodies and clubs were experiencing significant financial challenges.

"While the scale of this package may seem extraordinarily large, it merely reflects the enormity of the challenges being faced by our sporting bodies," he said.

"This new funding package will assist our national governing bodies of sport and sports clubs as they prepare to restart their sports under the government road map.

"Sporting organisations and clubs are hugely important for the social fabric of every community in the country, and we want to ensure that the sector recovers as strongly as possible from the current crisis.

"My officials will now engage with Sport Ireland to design new grant schemes."