Garda entry on church sparks fury on social media

Deeply upsetting video images

Sligo News File

The entry of gardai to remove people from a church in Athlone has sparked a wave of protest and condemnation across social media.

Video images show gardai standing to the front of the alter as worshippers are directed to leave the church.

It is truly shocking stuff which many will find hard to stomach.

But gardai will say they are carrying out the wishes of government as expressed in the newly enacted laws under which Catholics can be jailed where found attending a religious ceremony. As well, gardai have been empowered to dish out on-the-spot fines for engagements in religious activities they consider contravene government controls and regulations.

The defence offered by the government and large sections of the Dail is that the draconian, some would say Cromwellian measures are essential to the protection of the people with Covid-19 ravaging the country.

However, it’s only very recently that lockdown measures were introduced to restrict the movement of people from heavily Covid infected parts of the world into Ireland. While foreigners and others were arriving largely unrestricted in their thousands, people at home were being subjected to the most severe of severe restrictions on their movements.

There can be no doubt people will contrast what has happened in Athlone with scenes in Salthill where  hundreds, if not thousands gathered at the venue. It is likely also Salthill wasn’t the only place where people converged in large numbers over the weekend. As far as can be seen, social distancing certainly wasn’t maintained in all cases in Galway.

Raiding churches, particularly where social distancing is being observed, does nothing to garner respect for the laws or, indeed the Oireachtas.

Religious ceremonies are an important part of Catholic life. The oppressive laws forbidding Christian practice must be reviewed and removed. Clergy, if they want to, are more than capable of regulating congregations, and congregations themselves are also aware enough to observe social distancing and mask wearing requirements in church surroundings.

Ireland is currently the only country in Western Europe to have a blanket ban on in-person worship.