CHAIRPERSON Martin Keating of the Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group.
Appeal to pilgrims to avoid climb during pandemic
Reek Sunday has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued yesterday evening (Monday), the local Reek Sunday Organising Forum said canceling the National Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick was a decision they made with ‘a heavy heart’.
“The National Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, Reek Sunday, means so much to many people throughout the island of Ireland. It is a tremendous expression of faith and holds a tradition that encompasses so many generations. Pilgrims take on Reek Sunday both in petition and in thanksgiving and it is etched deeply in the hearts of so many.
“It is therefore with a heavy heart that in light of very strong public health advice, which we fully take on board and adhere to, both for the health and protection of our own local community, and that of those who may travel from other parts of the country, that the annual pilgrimage for 2020 has been cancelled,” they stated.
The group said Reek Sunday is a ‘cross community effort’ incorporating car parking and stewarding organised on the ground by the local Murrisk Community Development Association; on the rough terrain of the mountain path, which is covered by the Order of Malta, Mayo Mountain Rescue volunteers and their colleagues from throughout the country and beyond and, at the summit, where liturgical services are provided by the Parish of Westport and priests from the Archdiocese of Tuam and from beyond the diocese.
The group said a ‘wide ranging consultation’ with all these partners and An Garda Siochána and Mayo County Council took place.
“It became clear immediately that we would not be logistically in a position to proceed with Reek Sunday this year. Many of the volunteer stewards who know the terrain and the routine are themselves cocooning. The logistics of members of the public or volunteer emergency services coming to the assistance of someone who had fallen would create an unnecessary public health risk. It was furthermore confirmed to us by a Consultant in Public Health Medicine that Reek Sunday fell outside the criteria laid out in the roadmap for reopening the country. The public health advice is clear and we absolutely abide by it.”
They also urged people to abide by the directions.
“In 2015 the pilgrimage was moved from the mountain because an overnight storm had destroyed the infrastructure, which had taken weeks to put in place. This infrastructure included church facilities as well as emergency first aid and logistics.
“Despite the pilgrimage being called off, infrastructure being destroyed and inclement weather, people still climbed putting themselves and others at risk. The local community welcomes pilgrims and tourists alike with open arms, however these are different times and many of our community are vulnerable. On behalf of everybody involved we plead that the decision is respected at this time, both for the sake of our community who support us so much, and in the national interest.
“Croagh Patrick is unique and we would ask people to please respect the local community. Gardaí will be on duty on all approaches to Croagh Patrick this year, and in order to protect us all, will be actively promoting and enforcing current Public Health guidelines,” they concluded.
The statement was signed by the following: Martin Keating, Chairperson, Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group; Supt Kevin Gately, An Garda Siochána, Westport; Martin Keating, Mayo County Council; Shane Maguire, Team Lead, Mayo Mountain Rescue; Bernadette Greene, Officer in Charge, Westport Order of Malta; Frank McCarrick, Chairperson, Murrisk Development Association; Fr Charlie McDonnell, Administrator, St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Westport.