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Level 3 enforcement: Taoiseach declines to give timeline on when fines could be introduced but says options will be discussed this week

The Covid sub-committee met this morning to discuss enforcement of Level 3 restrictions.

The Taoiseach met with the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan this morning.
The Taoiseach met with the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan this morning.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 7th 2020, 5:30 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁl MARTIN has declined to give a timeline on when fines for Covid-19 breaches could be introduced, but said his government will assess options by the end of the week. 

Speaking this afternoon, Martin said that legislation is being looked at but that he hoped such measures wouldn’t have to be “relied upon”. 

The government is considering graduated fines for those who travel between counties for non-essential reasons and for other breaches of restrictions. 

As reported by TheJournal.ie this morning, the prospect of a graduated fines system, such as not wearing a face mask or leaving the county when restrictions are in place, was raised at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night.

One idea under consideration for graduated fines is a €50 on-the-spot fine for not wearing a face mask or leaving your county during restrictions. A spokesperson for the Tánaiste said:

“The law already provides for fines of €2,500 for breach of some laws like organising a gathering or not wearing a mask on public transport. All options are under review… but there are no plans at present for a new system of fines.”

Asked about the plans at the launch of the government’s new Climate Action Bill, the Taoiseach said the Cabinet Covid-19 Committee he chairs will be presented with options this week. 

“The review of existing legislation and existing regulations is now underway, the oversight group met this morning with a view to looking at introducing more graduated and proportionate fines for minor breaches of regulations,” he said.

I would expect that some options on that would be presented to the Cabinet Covid Committee meeting which is to be held on Friday. 

Asked when the fines could be in place, Martin said he wasn’t going to to give “any specific timelines on this”.

“I’m going to wait to see what will be presented to us and then we make a decision accordingly. And also will be guided by feedback as well,” he said. 

The Taoiseach also said that the government’s priority was to “work with people to build compliance without having to rely on those measures”.

It is understood that the government is concerned about the task of enforcement by gardaí given the high penalty, with a view that perhaps something smaller like a €20-€50 fine for leaving the county or not wearing a mask would work better.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has also raised concerns about what what would happen if people refuse to pay fines.

It is understood the system is not likely to be rolled out any time soon, as it would require legislation.

Level 3 enforcement

Speaking in the Dáil today, Micheál Martin confirmed that the civil servant Covid sub-committee met this morning to discuss the enforcement of Level 3.

Martin said there are concerns about Northern Ireland, and that there “is clearly overspill” of cases from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

The Taoiseach says the subcommittee will meet on Friday and the government have asked NPHET about any additional measures, as ‘”we need to take to protect nursing homes, we are very concerned about it”.

The oversight committee is chaired by the State’s most senior civil servant, Secretary General to the Government Martin Fraser. It provides oversight to NPHET recommendations and their practical implications to society and the economy.

The Taoiseach also told the Dáil that the government expect to see a surge in the number of people applying for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

He said they expect that between 50,000 to 60,000 people will apply for the social welfare payment by Friday as a result of the country going into Level 3.

He said as of last night, 17,000 additional applications had been received.

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Martin also told the Dáil today that he met the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan this morning. The meeting follows Monday’s controversy where the government rejected his advice to move to Level 5.

Varadkar also publicly criticised the CMO for the rationale behind his recommendations.

The Taoiseach said he had a good discussion with Holohan and he commended him for his commitment to the country and for coming back “to help the country”.

He said they both have a shared objective of getting the country through pandemic.

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