Super checkpoints will cause major traffic congestion, Harris warns

Garda hope traffic delays discourage people leaving their home counties

 Drew Harris at Garda Headquarters: The Garda Commissioner  said  travelling around the country would ‘feel very different’ as  Level 3 restrictions come into force countrywide. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Drew Harris at Garda Headquarters: The Garda Commissioner said travelling around the country would ‘feel very different’ as Level 3 restrictions come into force countrywide. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

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More than 2,500 Garda members are set to be deployed as part of a policing surge across the Republic in response to all parts of the State being upgraded to Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions, with major traffic congestion anticipated due to the impact of so-called super checkpoints.

Gardaí have said they believe traffic congestion, especially on the approaches to Dublin and within the city and county, will be very heavy. They were hopeful the delays would prove so long it would discourage people leaving their home county and encourage them to work from home.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said 132 permanent static checkpoints would be established on motorways and other main arterial routes across the country, as well as thousands of mobile checkpoints erected for short periods before moving elsewhere.

Speaking at Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Tuesday, Mr Harris said it was only fair to warn people that travelling around the country would “feel very different from tomorrow”.

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He said checkpoints would see traffic funnelled into one lane on motorways and other arterial routes nationwide. This would mean it “would be very difficult” for anyone making journeys on the roads for the duration of Operation Fanacht over the next three weeks.

“You only have to look what happens on any motorway when it goes from two or three lanes into one. It’s inevitable there will be delays,” Mr Harris said, adding he felt obliged to warn people in advance.

Enforcement powers

While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggested on Monday that new enforcement powers were being prepared for the Garda, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said on Tuesday no new enforcement measures were planned at present.

Mr Harris said he did not believe new powers were required. Gardaí would focus on “educating” people about the measures they were now being asked to comply with under Level 3.

Meanwhile, as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) announced a further 432 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday and one additional death, Mr Varadkar warned that a short and sharp lockdown may still happen despite the Government turning down Nphet’s advice to move to Level 5.

Sources present at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Tuesday night said Mr Varadkar warned a circuit-breaker lockdown may be on the horizon. He also said there had been a “breakdown” in communication over the weekend between Government and Nphet.

“The chain of command broke down, but he did not elaborate on why,” one TD present said.

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