The five council-operated cemeteries in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have all reopened to the public this morning (Saturday).
But there may still be times when it is not possible to admit people to visit loved ones’ graves.
Due to the restrictions at present, cemeteries would have to be locked to the public in the event of preparations taking place for a funeral and during interments too.
As well as the council-owned cemeteries, St Patrick’s Cemetery in Armagh – and all others operated by the Catholic Church within the Armagh Parish – will be reopened at lunchtime on Saturday.
Other churches are also making their own plans with regard reopening.
The public has been very much split on whether or not graveyards should be open at this time.
But the Northern Ireland Executive ruled on Friday that they should.
ABC Council has supported that decision.
The council operates six cemeteries within the borough. These are Ballynahone Cemetery, at Ardmore in Armagh, the Orchard Cemetery in Richhill, Kernan Cemetery in Portadown, Lurgan Cemetery and two further graveyards in Banbridge.
They reopened at 9am on Saturday morning with “the necessary guidance in place to ensure visitor and staff safety”.
Lord Mayor Mealla Campbell welcomed the relaxation of the recently-imposed legislation introduced under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations Northern Ireland Act (2020).
She said: “This has been a very difficult and emotional time for many people in our community who have lost loved ones.
“I know this decision will bring some comfort to people who are grieving and have been unable to visit their loved ones place of rest for several weeks.
“All council owned cemeteries will now be opened in line with public health advice and I encourage people to please maintain safe social distancing during this time.”
While cemeteries are reopening, the council is asking visitors to follow Public Health Agency guidance on social distancing.
It has also apologised for any inconvenience but says it may be necessary for staff to ask people to leave cemeteries to accommodate funeral services. If cemetery gates are locked during normal opening times, it says, this is due to funeral preparations.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council reopened it fives municipal cemeteries – Monkshill Cemetery, Newry, Warrenpoint Cemetery, Kilbroney Cemetery, Rostrevor, Struell Cemetery, Downpatrick and Lough Inch, Ballynahinch – on Friday night.
A spokesperson said there may also be need at times to close.
They said: “When a future funeral takes place, we will need to close the cemeteries one hour prior to and after the interment. This will continue until further notice.
“Our staff will also be undertaking checks on our cemeteries to ensure social distancing measures are being followed.
“This decision will be kept under review and will follow all guidance from the Executive.”
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