Residents of a Co Offaly town have expressed concerns that social distancing guidelines were ignored at a large funeral there earlier this week.

The concerns arose when more than 150 people from the Traveller community attended the burial in a small cemetery in Birr.

More than 50 cars and vans were parked outside the cemetery, prompting concerns in the local community about the lack of social distancing.

Local Independent Councillor John Leahy said he has received a lot of phone calls form residents who are both concerned and angry, that safety recommendations were far exceeded at yesterday's funeral.

Gardaí say discussions took place between the family and the priest on the day of the funeral. 
 
As a result, social distancing was observed at the church service prior to the burial.
 
However, gardaí confirmed that a large number of people turned up at the cemetery.
 
Local sources said around 150 people were in attendance, including a significant number who had travelled from London and other parts of the UK.  

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, gardaí have worked with the Traveller community to produce an educational video which details the risks of the pandemic and offers advice about how to protect people from the virus.

Martin Collins of the Traveller representative group, Pavee Point, expressed concern about large attendances at funerals.

"It is inexcusable and in my opinion reckless. People are putting their own lives on the line and that of others. And I would ask those Travellers, to please refrain from attending funerals such as in large numbers."

In a statement, gardaí said they engaged with those attending the cemetery in Birr and following the burial the crowd dispersed without incident.