A Clare priest has revealed that he has been celebrating public Mass “the whole time” throughout the Level 5 lockdown, with an average of over 50 attendees in his church, and has defended the practice as perfectly safe.

Fr. Willie Cummins, who is the parish priest of Ennistymon – a town in north clare – spoke yesterday to 48 attendees at his 11 a.m. Sunday morning Mass.

“Thank you all for coming, and with the help of God, there will be even more next Sunday,” he said.

“There hasn’t been one person who has got covid from being in there,” said Fr. Cummins outside the church following the Mass, as reported in the Irish Examiner, adding that he had been celebrating Mass “the whole time” throughout the covid lockdown.

Asked if 50 was the average attendance at his services, Fr. Cummins said “There would often be some more,” and asserted that he had received no backlash whatsoever for his defiance of the regulations.

“Not a bit of it. I am not doing anything wrong,” he said, adding that the people attending “haven’t been put at risk.”

“Look at the size of the church. It is all sanitised and the doors are left open all day.”

Again according to the Irish Examiner, the large church featured one person per row, separated by two rows in front and behind, and that the majority in attendance wore masks.

“I wouldn’t do it if I was causing trouble,” Fr. Cummins said. “A packed church wouldn’t happen and that wouldn’t be right…look at the size and the height of the church here.

“Go to Lahinch and see the crowds there at the weekends and, from Thursday evening on, every second car going there is a D reg.”

Asked if the gardaí had been in contact with him regarding the lockdown violation, the priest replied: “No, the gardaí are very understanding people.”

Reportedly, although Fr. Cummins had not told his local bishop of this practice, someone else had informed him already. The bishop’s reaction is unknown.

“Fr. Willie is doing what he should be doing as a priest,” said one regular attendee, adding that the Mass was “absolutely safe” and that he had no concerns about his health attending Fr. Cummins church.