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Mickey Harte speaks on grief, lockdown and the pandemic

THE former Tyrone GAA manager, Mickey Harte has spoken for the first time about how he feels the coronavirus pandemic restrictions have impacted on local communities.

In a new podcast to be uploaded by the UH this week, the Errigal Ciaran clubman says efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 had a particularly heavy toll on those who suffered beareavements during the past 14 months.

He was speaking after completing the St Patrick’s Way Pilgrim route in Downpatrick, Co Down, last week. “We can all say that rules probably seemed to be over-restrictive.

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“But people make these rules and regulations because they fear something worse and we have to try and understand why they are bringing them in,” Mr Harte said.

“I still believe there could have been more capacity for people to access our churches.

“ The numbers were down to 20 or 30, or 50 in a Cathedral that could hold 1,000 or 2,000 people, so that seemed a bit over the top when you saw the numbers that were able to go to stores and get what was considered essential. There is nothing more essential than your spiritual development and improvement and I think we need more of that.

“We were made for community and our Christian faith is not a private thing or something that you keep to yourself. It’s about engaging with people and the big loss was that people in rural parishes, particularly, were unable to come out to Mass and meet and have conversation with others.”

Mr Harte also said the community support at times of bereavement, which he feels is fundamental in Irish society, was sorely missed during the pandemic.

“I think it’s sad that so many people have lost their lives during this time of pandemic and they didn’t have people there to share those moments, and help them through the very traumatic and acute stages of that grief.”

He also said that an increase in mental health problems is linked to the isolation and lack of connection with others that people have felt during the pandemic.

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“We need each other and we need to connect.

“It’s a big challenge when people are unable to do that,” he added.

• The full interview with Mickey Harte can be accessed on our podcast which will be available this week on UlsterHerald.com and SoundCloud.

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