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Cabinet to meet today to consider new Garda enforcement powers

The government want gardaí to be given powers to interrupt and prevent house parties and social gatherings in breach of the guidelines.

Cabinet will discuss the proposed laws which will have to be approved by the Dail.
Cabinet will discuss the proposed laws which will have to be approved by the Dail.
Image: RollingNews.ie

PROPOSED NEW LEGISLATION which will give gardaí increased enforcement powers as part of new Covid-19 health measures are being put forward for Cabinet approval today.

Two week’s ago, the government released details of further public health measures aimed to reduce Ireland’s instance rate of Covid-19.

As part of this, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government would consider legislating to give increased powers to gardaí and other agencies to enforce the new measures, which are set to include powers for gardaí to close pubs.

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 wants 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,” Martin said earlier this month.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has been working with Justice Minister Helen McEntee on the exact nature of the increased powers. The Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, was also consulted in relation to the legislation.

Professor Philip Nolan has said that “house parties” are the perfect way for the virus to spread in the community.

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

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.

If approved by Cabinet today, the new laws will require approval by the Dáil, which is due to meet next week.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called on the government not to expand Garda powers stating that public health advice should be consent and education-based.

“It should not be policed by coercion. We call on the government to communicate with and educate people on the appropriate response to the surge in cases, rather than using coercion and force,” said the organisation. 

It added that there should be more transparency around how public health advice is given and how government decisions are made.

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It called on the government to take steps to protect people living or working in crowded settings such as Direct Provision centres, factories and halting sites.

“ICCL believes resources would be better directed in this direction, not in policing ordinary people,” said the group.

Separately, Cabinet will also discuss school reopening plans, and the current Covid restrictions.

The resignation of EU Commissioner Phil Hogan this week is also set to feature in today’s Cabinet discussion.

Prior today’s Cabinet meeting, party leaders, Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan will meet to discuss the vacancy in Europe and who will be the replacement.

It is believed that the Leaving Certificate and the calculated grades system is also an issue on the government’s radar, with government sources stating that more work is needed to ensure it is a fair system.

It is understood the matter will be raised at next week’s Cabinet meeting.

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