Enhanced fines of €2k for non-essential travel only came into effect on Monday

Increased fine first flagged by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on February 10th

Enhanced fines of €2,000 for non-essential travel only came into effect yesterday, despite first being signalled by the Taoiseach two months ago. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Enhanced fines of €2,000 for non-essential travel only came into effect yesterday, despite first being signalled by the Taoiseach two months ago. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Enhanced fines of €2,000 for non-essential travel only came into effect on Monday, despite first being signalled by the Taoiseach two months ago.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed that regulations giving effect to the higher fine, which was increased from €500 to provide for a greater disincentive against travel, came into operation on April 12th.

The increased fine was first flagged by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on February 10th, when he told the house that “there is a sense that €500 is not a sufficient disincentive to travel abroad. That will be increased.”

He said then that the Government was considering increasing the fine to €2,000 “to act as a significant deterrent to people travelling because all non-essential travelling should be avoided”.

The Department spokeswoman said the statutory instrument, which enables a €2,000 fine for travel to a port or airport without a reasonable excuse, came into operation on April 12th. It was signed on April 2nd and published four days later.

The Department said that to enable the fine, primary legislation was amended and provisions to that effect were included in the Health (Amendment) (Mandatory Quarantine) Act 2021, the Department said. That was signed into law by the President on March 7th.

The delay in implementing the regime of higher fines was criticised by the opposition. Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the delay was “hard to fathom”.

“The vast majority of people have kept very strictly to the 5 kilometre limit, and it has been fairly galling for people to see that the Government has not been serious about doing everything it can to prevent people from unnecessary international travel. This is especially the case in the context of the threat posed by new variants,” she said.

At the time he first signalled the increased fine, the Taoiseach said that around 60 per cent of those travelling into the State are returned Irish holidaymakers.