Storm of protest after bereaved families told outdoor service can't take place for second year

A Kilsyth woman has hit out at council chiefs for preventing a grave blessing service at the town’s cemetery for the second year running.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 1:47 pm

Catherine McGrath, a bereavement group representative at St Patrick’s Church in the town, said it was a cruel blow for those who were unable to attend funerals because of covid restrictions over the last year.

The ceremony was supposed to take place on Sunday June 20 but it was not to be.Catherine said: “Many have suffered the loss of a loved one, including myself, and were deprived of a funeral mass in the church. So this service would bring closure to many families.“Thousands of football fans can gather to support Scotland at Hampden Park and on Glasgow Green, but around 150 people can’t peacefully gather to pray at Kilsyth Cemetery for 30 minutes?

"I’m concerned by this decision. We don’t need policing for this event and this is a peaceful and prayerful gathering.”Aggrieved parishioners wrote letters of complaint to North Lanarkshire Council and Jamie Hepburn MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth contacted NLC about the decision.But he was powerless to have it reversed and wrote to Catherine: “The response I am afraid is a disappointing one which outlines that the council will continue not to support the service this year.”Father Daniel Doherty, parish priest at St Patrick’s, said: “Over the last year families have been prevented from attending funerals because of the forced closure of churches and heavy restrictions on capacity.“We have had a good working relationship with the council and, while I understand measures are in place to keep people safe, I hope they will soon realise this decision has hurt many people who are already suffering.”

A council spokesperson said this was a Scottish Government-led ruling that the authority was duty bound to follow on grounds of public health, especially as cases were on the rise within NLC boundaries.

She said: “It’s not a decision that has been taken lightly as we supported the blessing service and many other events in previous years, and we fully recognise the desire of the congregation to hold this but we are unable to grant permission at this time.”