A blanket worship ban remains in place in Ireland nearly a full year since it was put in place.
Religious freedom charity, ADF International, has called the ban disproportionate and has questioned why churches "are deemed too dangerous to open their doors, even to masked and distanced worshippers." Supermarkets and hardware stores have remained open in the country.
“Ireland’s restrictions on religious worship are now the most far-reaching and disproportionate in Europe. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, secured by the Irish Constitution and international law. Where a government introduces restrictions on religious worship in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions must be proportionate and reasonable. The blanket ban on all worship in Ireland is clearly disproportionate as can be seen by looking to the approach taken by almost every other European country,” said Lorcan Price, Irish Barrister and Legal Counsel for ADF International, in a statement.
Following a challenge at the High Court, the government confirmed that it is a criminal offense for a priest to conduct mass unless for the purpose of a funeral or a wedding. Worshippers could face a fine or up to 6 months jail time for leaving their homes to attend a place of worship.
ADF cites the example of a case in the rural Northern County of Cavan where Father PJ Hughes faced a fine of €500 after celebrating a Sunday Mass for 20 people on March 7th.
Following a legal challenge, Scotland’s top civil court found that a similar blanket ban on worship was unlawful. The challenge was successfully brought by 27 faith leaders and a Glasgow Priest, Canon Tom White, who was supported by ADF UK.