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‘Thank you for this’ – relief as cemeteries are to re-open to public

Keady Graveyard

Graveyards are to be re-opened to the public.

First Minister Arlene Foster made the announcement during the Executive’s daily coronavirus update on Friday.

Cemeteries were closed in March as part of the strict lockdown measures put in place by the government.

However, there have been growing calls to re-open in recent days, especially after public parks were allowed to re-open to the public – if only for pedestrian access.

And the wish of many has been answered.

Ulster Unionist councillor Julie Flaherty, who lost her son Jake in 2015 and who is buried in Kernan cemetery tweeted: “I literally could cry. Thank you for this. We will not let anyone down.”

Speaking at the Executive’s daily coronavirus update on Friday, Mrs Foster said: “We have agreed to support the health minister in lifting the restrictions on access to graveyards.

“This is about balancing public health concerns with the basic human need for people to visit their loved ones grave.

“Losing a loved one is a huge moment in anyone’s life, and whilst homes all across Northern Ireland are having to grieve without a wake or a public funeral.

“I do want to take a moment to sympathies with political colleagues who are currently grieving.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “The message has not changed, everyone must stay at home unless they have a clear need to be out of the house.

“We also recognise the comfort of visiting the graveside of a loved one and what that means to so many people.

“That is why we had committed to this issue of keeping graveyards under review. We have listened very carefully to the genuine distress of families who have not been able to visit the grave of a loved one.”

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