‘You can’t always take law enforcement approach’: Opposition questions restrictions

Shortall tells Dáil that Government decision-making fails to take human nature and needs into account

Major questions are being asked about Level 5 restrictions, the Dáil was told

Major questions are being asked about Level 5 restrictions because of the lack of inclusion in decision-making of experts in psychology and behavioural science, the Dáil has been told.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said the Oireachtas was being asked “to extend restrictions and the powers of the State to enforce those restrictions”.

But she said “you can’t always take a law enforcement approach to these things.

“People have to see that these restrictions, while severe, are reasonable at the same time. And there’s a lot of questions being asked about those restrictions.”


She said there was a gap in the decision making around the Covid-19 pandemic because very little thought has been given to human nature , human needs and psychology.

Ms Shortall was speaking as the Dáil began debating the extension of public health emergency legislation restricting individual rights from November 9th until June 9th, 2021.

The emergency measures also allow for the continuation of mental health tribunals for people held involuntarily and assessment by consultant psychiatrists remotely.

She said “I’m not aware that the nine or 10 people involved” in the discussions at the weekend about moving to Level 5 included any expertise there in relation to psychology or behavioural science. “I think that’s a real gap in decision making.”

More had to be done to ensure clear messaging on measures, and there was a need to adopt a different approach, the Social Democrats co-leader said.

Social contact, including for people living alone, should have been accommodated for the very beginning, and “it is unreasonable not to allow that”.

Saying there were gaps in the decision making process, Ms Shortall pointed to the ban on golf and said it was very hard to understand this. “An awful lot of older people like to go out playing golf,” which was a very healthy activity and good for physical and mental health.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the public health measures restricting individual rights "must be introduced, retained only in the pursuit of legitimate public health goals, must be the least intrusive to achieve those goals".

He said the Government had to make very difficult decisions to move the country to Level 5 in response to the rapidly deteriorating situation, which was very concerning.

Mr Donnelly said there have been almost 9,000 cases in the last week alone and the 14-day rate now stands 291 per 100,000.

The Government had to introduce Level 5 measures to get the reproduction rate to below 1 and suppress the virus, Mr Donnelly said, adding globally Covid-19 cases are on the rise.

He acknowledged, however, the measures place “extraordinary restrictions” on people’s lives.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times