The Bishop of Raphoe has recommended that the parishes can proceed with holy communions and confirmations from the middle of August in his diocese, which encompasses much of Donegal.

Bishop Alan McGuckian is the fifth bishop of 22 dioceses in the Republic of Ireland who has instructed their local parishes to go ahead with communions and confirmations against current public health advice.

In a letter to his diocese, Bishop McGuckian wrote: "It is very important that we conduct any ceremonies according to the strict guidelines and protocols that we have been following to date."

He asked families of those partaking in the sacraments "that any subsequent gatherings be kept strictly within family pods".

"We are aware that areas in County Donegal, including parts of our diocese, have the highest rates of infection in Ireland. It is essential that we maintain the highest standards of sanitisation and social distancing at all of our ceremonies."

Public health guidelines advise that religious ceremonies should not take place at this time. Further advice will follow on resumption of these ceremonies when it is safe to do so.

From 5 August, baptism services may proceed. However, they must follow all protective measures and social gatherings afterwards should be avoided.

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran was the first to make this move on Friday, and received sharp criticism from the Taoiseach.

Micheál Martin said that the restrictions were in place to protect people and he did not approve of any unilateral breaching of regulations.

The dioceses of Waterford and Lismore, Clogher and Meath also joined the move to proceed with these sacraments for children.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore said: "While travelling around the diocese and several counties of late, and seeing the large crowds congregating at all kinds of venues including thousands being officially allowed at sports events, I can see no valid reason for the further postponement of the sacraments for our children."

A local parish priest in the diocese, Fr Michael Toomey of Ardfinnan, said he has a full September of communions and confirmations planned, and welcomed the bishop's decision.

He said it was time "to take back control" and criticised the Government's application of restrictions to certain religious ceremonies.

In the Diocese of Meath, St Mary's Parish Navan has a full day of confirmations scheduled for 18 August after Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan informed priests in his diocese that confirmations could go ahead.