New Garda powers will focus on ‘rogue hospitality operators’ - Taoiseach

Martin says new Covid-19 law will target businesses ‘endangering public health’ rather than house parties

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed the new powers due to be given to the gardaí will focus on tackling rogue hospitality operators rather than private house parties. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed the new powers due to be given to the gardaí will focus on tackling rogue hospitality operators rather than private house parties. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed the new powers due to be given to the gardaí will focus on tackling rogue hospitality operators rather than private house parties.

However, speaking on a visit to Co Cork this week, Mr Martin ruled out recalling the Dáil early to debate the new powers for gardaí to help ensure people abide by new Covid-19 guidelines.

There have been calls since from the Opposition for the Dáil to be recalled to debate the fallout of the Oireachtas golf dinner controversy.

Mr Martin said that he had asked Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC to look at whether the Government will need to introduce new legislation to ensure compliance on Covid-19 guidelines but the priority will be rogue operators within the hospitality sector.

Preparing

“We don’t envisage gardaí in normal cases going into houses – basically the attorney general is now working with line departments in relation to preparing the legislation,” said Mr Martin during a visit to Mahon on Thursday.

“We won’t be recalling the Dáil to do it, there won’t be a necessity to do that because Covid is with us for a long time, certainly well into next year, and we have to factor that into how we organise ourselves as a society and as an economy.

“But, that said, if there are rogue operators in hospitality, for example, we believe extra powers are required for the gardaí to go into an establishment and say what’s happening right here in front of me is endangering public health and I need to close this facility down.

“That’s the first priority and that’s what the Attorney General, with other departments, is working on. In relation to the homes, that’s far more complex and NPHET did advise that but Government said subject to the attorney general’s advice.”

‘Considerable complications’

Mr Martin acknowledged that are “considerable complications” involved in drawing up legislation that would allow gardaí to enter homes to ensure private parties are adhering to Government guidelines but the focus is very much on those commercial operators ignoring the guidelines

But he stressed such operators were a small minority. “The vast majority of people it has to be said are adhering to the rules and to the guidelines to be fair - the vast majority of hotels, the vast majority of restaurants, are all adhering to this and Gastro pubs as well.

“But where an untoward incident develops I think we do need an additional power and we are examining that right now but no decisions have been taken until the legislation is properly formulated.”