At the Convention Centre, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee spoke during the second stage debat on the Health (Amendement) Bill 2020 and told the Dail that the intention of everyone in the Dàil is to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
She then spoke about the new Garda powers and fines that are being deployed during Level 5 lockdown, saying:
“Covid-19 remains a very real threat to all of us and, in particular, to our most vulnerable citizens. It is a critical time for our country and we have a responsibility to comply with public health guidelines and the regulations for the good of everybody.
“While the vast majority of people continue to comply with restrictions, it is very clear that too many people are acting in a manner which enables the transmission of the virus and therefore additional measures are needed. The fixed charge system being proposed will help, we hope, to change behaviour.
“This is important to note however that the Government’s objective here is not to catch people, it’s not to fine people who are adhering to guidelines or even those who make mistakes because we all make mistakes.
“The objective is to prevent the kind of behaviour that endangers others. We do not want to see large numbers of fines issued for non-compliance.
“Even with these new enforcement powers, An Garda Siochana will continue to comply with the policing policy which has earned the support of the vast majority of the public during the pandemic…
“…The new fixed penalty notices will allow for a more proportionate system of fines. The legislation before the House today will also make it an offence to organise an event in a private home such as a house party that is in breach of public health regulations. However, as we’ve outlined, An Garda Siochana will not be given any extra powers of entry into a private dwelling. It is presumed that the occupier of the home in which the event is taking place, is the organiser unless it is proven otherwise.
“An Garda Siochana will also have additional powers to give direction in relation to events in private homes. These are firstly the powers to direct someone who is intending to enter a dwelling for the purpose of attending an event organised in contravention of the public health regulations or someone who is about to enter a dwelling for that purpose, who is attempting to enter the dwelling for that purpose, they will be asked to leave the vicinity in a peaceful and orderly manner.
“If a member of An Garda Siochana suspects that an event in breach of the public health regulations is taking place in a private dwelling, he/she may direct the occupier to require and cause all those attending the event to leave the home or venue unless they are resident in the home.
“For the purpose of issuing such a direction, a member of An Garda Siochana may attend at the main entrance to the event and require the occupier to provide their name. A person who fails to comply with a direction from a member of An Garda Siochana commits the offence and is liable on summary conviction of a fine not exceeding €1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month. They may appeal the conviction against the sentence to the circuit court.
“….Operation Fanacht is focused on supporting public compliance with these public health measures, the Garda Commissioner has announced that there will be continued high-visibility patrolling by Garda members across the country. Again the focus here is not to try and catch people out, to penalise them, it’s to encourage people to adhere to the public health measures.
“Gardai will continue checkpoints on main routes. In recent weeks that has involved 132 large-scale checkpoints a day on main arterial routes around the country. In addition, thousands of mobile checkpoints a week on secondary routes and towns and villages and they will continue to be high visibility.”
Earlier: For Your Own Safety