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Decision to cancel St Patrick's parade in Derry saved lives, says councillor, as it is revealed that the local council trained 50 gravediggers in preparation for the coronavirus pandemic

Ensuring that the annual celebrations did not go ahead was the 'right decision'

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The St Patrick's Day parade in Derry this year was cancelled.

Fifty gravediggers were trained up by Derry's council in preparation for the coronavirus pandemic, it has been revealed.

In the run-up to the pandemic, there were stark warnings about the potential death toll, with the Health Minister Robin Swann at one stage claiming that up to 15,000 people could die.

Such warnings prompted health and public agencies to make extensive plans to cope with the forecast number of fatalities.

Locally, it has now emerged that Derry City and Strabane District Council had trained up 50 gravediggers.

The figure emerged this week at a meeting of the council's Governance and Strategic Planning committee.

Speaking at the meeting, Independent councillor Paul Gallagher paid tribute to how the local authority's leadership team had dealt with the pandemic.

He highlighted the decision to cancel the St Patrick's Day parades in Derry and Strabane as being important in reducing the number of deaths locally.

He said it was a 'risky' decision by the council, but one that had been proven to be the right decision.

Cllr Gallagher said there was 'a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear' in the run-up to the pandemic affecting people locally.

“We trained 50 gravediggers. In other places, they needed 50 gravediggers. Thankfully we didn't,” he said.

Cllr Gallagher praised council chief executive John Kelpie for leading the council's response in cancelling the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

“People can talk about individuals but I think councillors and council officers fell in behind that leadership and when we analysis it and when we analysis the impact it has made on the NHS across the district and the many lives it has saved then I think that needs to be recorded,” he said.

“We can talk about the good stories, but when we weigh it up and the decisions that were made early on that were risky and people didn't agree with and people didn't like and we are now in June and we see that those were the right decisions.”

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