Garda to scale down Covid-19 enforcement for June bank holiday

Focus of force to switch from roads to parks, beaches and beauty spots

Gardaí are expected to operate a scaled-down operation this bank holiday weekend to enforce the coronavirus movement restrictions as the force switches focus from roads to parks, beaches and beauty spots.

The Easter and May bank holiday weekends saw large-scale Garda mobilisations, including extra checkpoints and foot patrols, to ensure people were only travelling for essential reasons.

While an enforcement operation will be in place this weekend, it is expected to be on a smaller scale and will focus on road safety rather than enforcing the movement restrictions.

This week Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said over the coming weeks the force's coronavirus policing will focus on monitoring the movement restrictions through "community engagement at key locations such as parks, beaches and natural beauty spots.


“We also remind people, particularly coming up to the bank holiday weekend, about not travelling to holiday homes or making non-essential journeys.”

Fine weather

The current fine weather is set to continue over the bank holiday weekend, with temperatures to range from 20 to 25 degrees which has led to a notable rise in the number of people at beaches and scenic areas.

Friday will remain dry and sunny throughout the day, with some cloud cover in the west of the country, and colder breezes along the southwest coast.

Temperatures on Saturday will range from highs of 20 to 25 degrees, with clear skies and strong sunshine in most places, according to Met Éireann’s forecast.

The west of the country will see cloudier weather, with temperatures along the southern and eastern coasts slightly lower than other parts due to coastal breezes. Temperatures are forecast to reach 24 degrees on Sunday

The Garda and the Road Safety Authority have expressed concern about an increase in road deaths compared to 2019, despite the massively reduced traffic on the roads as a result of the pandemic.

There has been a 17 per cent increase in fatal collisions compared to the same period in 2019 and pedestrian deaths have doubled to 18.

Despite the closure of pubs and restaurants, gardaí have also stopped 1,153 people so far drink or drug driving,

"In light of the increase in road deaths this year, An Garda Síochána will launch a Roads Policing enforcement operation this coming June Bank Holiday weekend," Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary of National Roads Policing Unit said.

“The operation will concentrate on the four ‘Lifesaver’ offences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, non-seatbelt wearing and using a mobile phone while driving.

“Of concern is the number of people arrested so far this year for driving under the influence of an intoxicant; either alcohol or drugs.

Massive impact

The policing response to the coronavirus has had a massive impact on the Garda budget and regional management has been ordered to institute an overtime ban. This has already resulted in a less visible police presence around the country.

The use of the Garda helicopters in coronavirus policing has also been significantly reduced, sources said.

The number of enforcement actions taken by gardaí under the coronavirus restrictions has also dropped as the country begins its slow reopening. Last week gardaí enforced the regulations 22 times, down from 49 times the week before and the second lowest rate of enforcement since the emergency powers were introduced.

Just under €35 million has been spent on Garda overtime this year, 12 per cent over the expected spend. Additional overtime was required to enforce the restrictions and to cover for members who were forced to self-isolate as a result of Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times