Montalto wedding reception row: DUP man blames SF for damaging Covid message
A DUP MLA has laid some of the blame for apparent flouting of coronavirus guidance at a wedding reception in Ballynahinch at the door of Sinn Fein.
Gary Middleton, representing the Foyle constituency, was reacting to footage showing a crowd of intermingling wedding guests partying and dancing together.
The footage was purportedly filmed at the Carriage Rooms, a section of the Montalto Estate in central Co Down.
It has been published online by Stephen Nolan.
Gary Middleton said: “Sadly when the DFM and other senior SF Ministers openly and arrogantly flout the guidelines, the message is damaged.
“The overwhelming majority of NI have adhered to the health advice and have helped save lives. We must continue to follow the guidance.”
This was in reference to Sinn Fein figures’ attendance at IRA man Bobby Storey’s funeral on June 30,
It is not clear exactly how many guests were present at the ceremony for the unnamed couple.
The venue has said it is still the “early days” of reopening, and indicated it will take businesses time to find their feet.
Guidance issued by the NI Executive on July 10, when indoor weddings were permitted, says this:
“Resuming indoor marriages must, in the context of Covid-19, still be seen as carrying a serious risk and it is on that basis that venues are being asked to help manage the risk by:
“- following the existing hospitality guidance for meals and refreshments;
“- avoiding lengthy celebratory events; and
“- singing and dancing are not advised, and care should be taken with music pending further guidance.”
The guidance further adds: “There should be no communal dancing at the event. The couple may have a first dance to pre-recorded music.
“Further guidance on music, singing and dancing will follow when possible.
“Guests must not congregate away from their tables.
“All elements of the ceremony and reception should be on a table/seated basis. Guests may not go to the bar.”
The News Letter has asked the NI Executive if these remain the most up-to-date guidelines.
The NI regulations are currently a sprawling mess of dozens of different instruments and amendments, making it hard to tell definitively what is legally enforceable, and what is not.
Likewise the guidelines (which are advice, not legally-binding rules) have changed repeatedly throught the Covid crisis.
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