Government considering allowing alcohol-free music events to go ahead
Ministers to meet campaigners to examine which events can be further reopened
The crowd for Bonnie Tyler who played on the Throwback stage at Electric Picnic in August last year. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Minister for Arts Catherine Martin will on Monday meet arts campaigners to examine what facilities and events can be further reopened within Covid-19 public-health guidelines. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Musical events and gigs may be allowed to go ahead if alcohol is not served on the premises as part of new proposals under consideration by the Government.
Minister for Arts Catherine Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will on Monday meet arts campaigners to examine what facilities and events can be further reopened within Covid-19 public-health guidelines.
Political sources have said Ms Martin is keen to increase the levels of audience and artists at events beyond the current restrictions and will examine if banning alcohol from such events could facilitate them being held. The Minister intends to examine both indoor and outdoor events as part of this process.
This would mean gigs may get the green light to proceed potentially without alcohol sales and possibly with larger attendance figures.
Under current Government guidelines, only businesses or services such as museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries can allow a maximum 50 people to congregate indoors because they are deemed to be “controlled environments”. At present all other indoor cultural events are subject to the six-person-maximum rule.
“I hope it will assist everyone in developing a better understanding of how we can move forward and strike an appropriate balance between protecting our public health in an effort to ensuring events of greater numbers than current restrictions inside and outside can take place where possible,” Ms Martin said.
Meanwhile, the Government will on Monday publish fresh legislation detailing what new powers gardaí will be given to crack down on restaurant and pub owners who do not comply with public-health guidelines.
A draft copy of legislation seen by The Irish Times states that pub and restaurant owners who reopen their premises during the period of a closure order could face a fine of €5,000 and one year in jail on conviction.
The legislation also states that where gardaí have obtained an emergency or temporary closure order, the licence-holder will have to affix a notice outside the building . Anyone who fails to do this will be fined €2,500.
These measures come in addition to the new powers being introduced to allow gardaí to close a premises for one day, seven days and 30 days depending on the level of non-compliance. The legislation is due to come before the Dáil this week.
However, when the Dáil’s business committee met last Friday, Opposition politicians expressed concern that the Government was attempting to push new powers through the Oireachtas too quickly. Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy told the meeting that legislation was being rushed through the Dáil and that this could result in politicians being “caught out” by unintentional mistakes.
In relation to any new legislation being introduced, head of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Antoinette Cunningham on Sunday urged the Government to think about the practicalities of how it could be enforced. She told RTÉ that enforcement of existing guidelines relating to €9 meals being served with alcohol in pubs “were not practical”.
On Sunday, the Department of Health confirmed another 42 cases of Covid-19. There were no new deaths for the eighth day in a row. Fifteen cases were confirmed as being associated with outbreaks or close contacts of a confirmed case, with six were identified as community transmission. In terms of the geographic spread, 24 of the cases are located in Dublin, six in Limerick and the remaining 12 are located in Carlow, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Longford, Offaly and Sligo.