Coronavirus: Garda checkpoints on major roads over bank holiday weekend

No noticeable shift towards non-compliance with Covid-19 restrictions, say Garda sources

More than 2,000 gardaí are on duty at checkpoints nationwide until midnight on Monday as part of Operation Fanacht. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

More than 2,000 gardaí are on duty at checkpoints nationwide until midnight on Monday as part of Operation Fanacht. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

More than 2,000 Garda members will be on duty on 12-hour shifts as part of Operation Fanacht this bank holiday weekend to ensure compliance with public health restrictions aimed at combating Covid-19.

The operation began midweek and is set to continue up to midnight on Monday, with checkpoints being put in place on major roads nationwide.

However, despite fears of complacency around compliance with the coronavirus restrictions, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said several times this week Garda members had found people understood the restrictions and were following them.

Garda sources told The Irish Times that in the 48-hour period up to Friday night there had been no noticeable shift towards non-compliance and they had also seen no concerning increase in traffic volume.

Senior officers said while there had been concerns people would drive to holiday homes over the recent Easter weekend, and that could be repeated again for this weekend, no significant evidence of that had emerged in recent days.

Complaints

Meanwhile, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has branded as “unfair” the actions of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) in taking complaints from members of the public about Garda members not wearing gloves and masks, and then publicising those complaints by releasing statistics about them.

Gsoc, which investigates complaints made about Garda members, said more than 70 complaints had been made since the Covid-19 policing operation began which related specifically to that operation. These included allegations Garda members had not been wearing face masks and gloves, as well as claims gardaí were rude or abrupt at checkpoints.

However, AGSI general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said her association had always argued gardaí should be wearing facemasks and gloves because policing “runs contrary to social distancing”.

It would have been better if the validity of the complaints had been established first

Despite the calls by the association for personal protective equipment (PPE), she said, senior Garda management had decided members of the force should not wear the masks or gloves and so none had been made available.

Rather than accepting such complaints from members of the public, Ms Cunningham said Gsoc should explain to those complainants that gardaí are not permitted to wear the items. She said accepting the complaints and then issuing a statement about them was very unfair to frontline Garda members and not helpful to the public.

Admissible

Ms Cunningham said the other complaints, about rudeness and abruptness by some Garda members, should be investigated by Gsoc if they are deemed worthy of investigation and are admissible.

“They [Gsoc] haven’t even decided if they are admissible or not yet,” she said of the 70 complaints the Garda watchdog issued a public statement about.

“It would have been better if the validity of the complaints had been established first and then the statistics released afterwards.”

Gsoc said it had notified Garda Headquarters of more than 70 complaints in a bid to assist Garda management in “identifying issues which may be emerging in the enforcement of the restrictions”.

“The Ombudsman Commission believes that sharing anonymised details in this way in real time will alert the Garda Síochána to concerns emerging from the public and allow Garda management address issues as they arise,” Gsoc said.

It added the names of the complainants or the gardaí about whom complaints were made had not been shared with the Garda and the admissibility of the complaints had yet to be established.