The Taoiseach has said that he accepts the restrictions around holding Communions and Confirmations is "very difficult" but warned against any "unilateral breaching of regulations".

This follows a circular being issued by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran to parish priests in his diocese, telling them that they can proceed with communions and confirmations in the coming weeks.

Micheál Martin said that the sole motivation behind restrictions was to "protect lives".

"I think that should be accepted in good faith", he told reporters this afternoon, following a meeting of the 26 North South Ministerial Council.

"I don't approve of any unilateral breaching of regulations" he said.

Mr Martin acknowledged that the rules are "very difficult for children".

Referring to the pace of the vaccination rollout, he queried "is it too much to ask that we another number of weeks to get into a really strong protective situation".

In a circular to parish priests in his diocese, which includes parts of Sligo, Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath, Bishop Doran said the guidance issued by the Government on holding communions and confirmations was advice rather than regulation.

"As you may be aware, the Government today reissued its guidance on First Holy Communion and Confirmation, advising that they should not take place at this time.

"In consultation with the Vicars Forane and the Vicars General, I have decided, however, that no good reason has been given to us for this advice, considering the focus on the careful reopening of all sectors of society.

"I am, therefore, proposing that we proceed with the celebration of these Sacraments as previously scheduled," the letter read.

Bishop Doran said the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation should be celebrated, as they were last year, with limited numbers, consistent with public health regulations.

He said more detailed guidance would be issued to priests before the weekend.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said that since 5 May, public mass has been celebrated in accordance with strictly controlled public health guidelines.

He said that if 50 people can currently attend mass he didn't see why that number can't also attend a communion ceremony.

Bishop Doran said he understood public health concerns about what he called "irresponsible gatherings" and said that both he and his colleagues have been encouraging people at all times to behave in a safe and responsible way.

However, he said things were getting better, restrictions were easing and the whole country was reopening in a safe and controlled manner.

Bishop Doran said celebrations would be "trimmed down" with family groups wearing masks and remaining in their places as well as no photos being taken in the church.

He said he has asked parishioners to "keep it simple" and observe public health advice when celebrating on the day.

Additional reporting Tommy Meskill