Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.01 18 Feb 2021


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After months of lockdown, the good weather this week has been a long overdue change after weeks of cold and wet weather.

It’s also led to a fresh focus on the strict guidelines on outdoor meetings, with questions over whether some groups are pushing the boundaries of social distancing too far.

Under the level five rules, there is an allowance for people to meet with people from one other household when exercising outdoors.

However, the guidelines say no other outdoor group or social gatherings should take place.

Playgrounds remain open, but parents have been told not to organise gatherings with other children.

While there’s expected to be some slight easing of the rules next month, there have already been increased reports of groups gathering in the country’s parks.

That ranges from parents and their children meeting for playdates, to groups of friends meeting after nearly two months of full lockdown.

Some Dubliners, meanwhile, have complained about about 'gangs of teenagers' meeting up together despite the restrictions.

For today's Pat Kenny Show, Henry McKean visited a Dublin Park and spoke to some of the people, families and other groups who were there.

Everyone Henry spoke to was adhering to social distancing.

Gatherings in the park: 'We haven’t seen each other since December… we’re a bit fed up'

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One woman said: “We just go for a short walk with our cousins, so we tend to only meet this family.

“I just think it’s important for the kids to meet up with each other: otherwise being stuck indoors - home-schooling and not meeting up with anyone else - is really, really challenging.

"We have to try to protect their mental health.”

One group, meanwhile, was meeting up for a socially-distanced 40th birthday celebration - bringing “chairs, cupcakes, coffee and a prosecco” to celebrate the occasion.

One of the women said: “We haven’t seen each other since December… we’re a bit fed up.

“It’s been a long-time, so we said we’re going to meet and keep socially distant.”

One woman told Henry the good weather has been a 'game-changer'.

She said: "It’s been a struggle… January blues, winter weather. Spring has sprung, and it’s great to see everybody out enjoying it.

“I think everyone deserves it - everyone deserves a good pat on the back that we’ve gone this far, [but] I know there’s more to go.

“I think it’s very hard, particularly on the children, to keep them separated. They’ve been locked in, and doing their schoolwork.

“Let’s [meet] outside - I don’t see anything too dangerous with it, as long as you know the family that you’re meeting with.”

'Cabin fever'

One woman said she doesn’t think playdates in the park are appropriate at the moment.

However, she argued the ‘Government is failing us’ in not having a rapid vaccination programme.

She observed: “People can’t live like this anymore… people are in lockdown since Christmas.”

Another woman said people are ‘frustrated and bored’, but she believes there’s a ‘social duty’ to stick to the rules until the vaccine is rolled out.

One man told Henry McKean it’s totally understandable that people have ‘cabin fever’ and need to get out.

However, he said they’re trying to keep to their own social bubble for now.

He said: “We’re coming to a park, but we try to stay clear of playgrounds.

“If they go to a playground, absolutely they’re going to play with other children.”


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