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Explainer: How gardaí are policing the new regulations for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

As part of Operation Fanacht, garda checkpoints were in place in the three counties over the weekend.

A garda checkpoint in Tullamore on Saturday afternoon.
A garda checkpoint in Tullamore on Saturday afternoon.
Image: An Garda Síochána

GARDAÍ CONDUCTED A number of checkpoints over the weekend in Kildare, Laois and Offaly following new regional regulations announced Friday to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Midlands. 

The restrictions, which came into effect at midnight on Friday, relate to businesses, travel and social interactions. They will be in place for two weeks and then will be reviewed. 

Food businesses in these counties can only operate a takeaway/deliver service and gatherings are limited to 15 people outdoors and six people indoors. Residents in the three counties are also being asked not to travel outside their county.

Gardaí are using the checkpoints to remind the public of the new regulations – particularly in relation to travel.

They can also take action if certain businesses remain open or operate outside of the regional regulations. 

Enforcement

Although residents are being asked not to travel outside the country and there have been checkpoints in operation over the weekend, gardaí do not have powers of arrest in situations where a driver continues on a journey outside the county.

Gardaí at checkpoints are asking residents where they are travelling and why as well as reminding them of the public health advice and the new local guidelines. 

Government restrictions state residents in these counties can only travel within the county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home;
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products;
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits;
  • for farming purposes, such as food production or care of animals.

While it is not a requirement to carry a letter from an employer, it may help speed along interactions at a checkpoint. 

The government has said people should also not travel into any of the three counties for any reason other than those listed above. Drivers are allowed to travel through these counties to get to another destination.

The new local regulations do provide penal provisions in relation to indoor and outdoor gatherings as well as the provision of certain business services.

This means gardaí can take enforcement action if there is, for example, an outdoor gathering of more than 15 people in one of these counties, or if a pub or restaurant accepts customers into the premises to sit down for a meal.

Under the regulations all cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close, so the same policing enforcement would apply to these premises.

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Policing by consent

Today An Garda Síochána urged the public to continue to work together to minimise the risk to each other.  In a statement it said it will continue to adopt a graduated policing response “based on its tradition of policing by consent”.

“This has seen garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.”

It said gardaí at checkpoints have been focused on supporting public compliance with public health measures which are being implemented in the three counties.

Speaking today, Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey said: “Throughout the country, there has been a huge national and local effort to date in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, but Covid-19 remains a real threat.

“Once again, we as a community must flatten this new curve in the virus. As a community based organisation, An Garda Síochána is very aware of the impact increased restrictions place on our communities and we will continue to work closely with these communities to support them at this challenging time.”

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