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NPHET last night said it would not recommend that ‘wet pubs’, those not serving food, should re-open next week. SIPA USA/PA Images
Cabinet Meeting

Gardaí will be allowed shut down pubs that breach public health guidelines

Gardaí will first give a compliance notice to a pub owner asking them to address any issues identified.

LAST UPDATE | 28 Aug 2020

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS that break public health guidelines will face closure of their premises under new Garda enforcement powers was approved by Cabinet today.

The new enforcement powers will allow for pub closures for those that breach rules such as not serving food or not maintaining social distancing on the premises.

Gardaí can issue a compliance notice to a pub owner asking them to address any issues in their business that are identified as a breach of the rules.

If a pub owner fails to take action, gardaí can either issue an immediate closure order that would shut the pub for a day or pub owners could also face a fine of up to €2,500 or a six-month prison sentence.

Gardaí will also be able to apply to the District Court for an Emergency Closure Order which could close a pub for up to 30 days.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said in a post-Cabinet statement that since the beginning of July Gardaí have found “the vast majority of licenced premises to be in compliance with both health regulations and licensing laws”.

Between Friday 3 July and Sunday 23 August, 165 potential breaches were recorded.

“But the unfortunate reality is that some licensed premises are flouting the law, risking the health of their customers and the wider public.” 

McEntee said she wanted to ensure that Gardaí have the powers “to act swiftly” to deal with any breaches of Covid-related regulations.

I appreciate that these are extraordinary powers, but we are facing an urgent public health need.  These powers will be temporary and include a number of safeguards, including provision for appeal in respect of closure orders.
In keeping with the graduated policing response adopted to date, I don’t expect that these powers will be used frequently. But I strongly believe that this new law will encourage better compliance with Covid regulations by publicans and restauranteurs, in the interests of all of our society.

Pubs not to reopen

It comes as NPHET last night said it would not recommend that ‘wet pubs’, those not serving food, should re-open next week.

The government also wanted the gardaí to be given powers to interrupt and prevent house parties.

“We do need immediate sanctions where there’s a clear breach of the public health measures because that clearly has a ripple effect across the wider community,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said earlier this month.

While it had been expected that the new enforcement laws would also address this issue, it is understood that the proposed new legislation will not give gardaí powers to enter a home where more than six people are visiting. There has been significant pushback from the opposition on such a measure.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said today there can not be a situation where gardaí are driving around checking to see how many people are gathering in homes.

Labour Justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin said such a law would be both unenforceable and draconian.

At last night’s NPHET briefing, the team outlined a “significant number of outbreaks” – a total of 392 active outbreaks in the state currently being managed by public health officials. Of those, 252 were due to social gatherings in private houses.

Acting CMO Dr Ronan Glynn further clarified that not all these 252 outbreaks are linked to house parties and that the vast majority have arisen because of social interaction of a whole variety of types in households. He said that having clusters in households is an entirely normal part of dealing with an infectious disease.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed that an outbreak is by definition two or more linked cases of the virus so the number of cases associated with these outbreaks is going to be greater than 252.

In one outbreak, 26 cases were linked to a gathering in a pub-restaurant, which in turn lead to 10 further cases in another workplace.

Another restaurant had 19 cases involving staff and customers.

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