Coronavirus: Use of new Garda powers ‘a last resort’

Latest regulations to enforce travel restrictions, social distancing will lapse at end of bank holiday weekend, briefing told

A Covid-19-related Garda checkpoint in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A Covid-19-related Garda checkpoint in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Sweeping new Garda powers to enforce Government restrictions on travel and social distancing will be used “as a last resort” and “sparingly”, the Government said on Wednesday.

Furthermore, the regulations will lapse at the end of the forthcoming bank holiday weekend.

At the morning Covid 19 briefing, Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general in the Department of Taoiseach, said although the majority of the public have been “playing their part”, there was a need to “be fair to everyone who is making an effort”.

“If we do not stay the course, all of the sacrifices already made and all of the work you’ve put in so far, and all of the work done by our frontline workers to try and suppress this virus won’t be enough.”

She said gardaí have been given new powers “on an exceptional basis and for exceptional cases”.

“We know from what we have seen so far that the majority of are playing part, making that sacrifice.”

Ms Canavan urged the public to abide by travel restrictions this bank holiday weekend. “I know that with the long weekend approaching and the weather improving this might be difficult. You might be tempted to travel beyond the 2kms to a park or beach or to a holiday home in another part of the country.”

She said although social distancing measures have made a difference, “we are not there yet.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has signed into law new regulations granting gardaí sweeping powers to enforce restrictions on public movement due to Covid-19.

The regulations are required for the coming into effect of powers contained in the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020, which recently completed its passage through the Dáil and the Seanad.

The law allows that a person who refuses to comply with an instruction of a garda who is seeking to impose social distancing rules, is guilty of an offence that can lead to a prison sentence of up to six months.

Ms Canavan has also said the Government will provide certainty on the Junior and Leaving Cert exams in the coming days, but she urged students to continue studying.