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Taoiseach says full reopening of pubs on 20 July 'could be delayed' if the rules are flouted

Meanwhile the LVA said that the images of drinkers in Dublin over the weekend were a major concern.

Dame Lane and the wider area in Dublin appeared busy with drinkers on Saturday night, with few signs of social distancing.
Dame Lane and the wider area in Dublin appeared busy with drinkers on Saturday night, with few signs of social distancing.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Jul 6th 2020, 11:15 AM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the full reopening of pubs on 20 July “could be delayed” if the rules are not adhered to.

Speaking on the 96FM Opinion Line this morning, Martin said the Cabinet would be considering a Garda report today on the level of compliance by publicans. 

He said the majority of licence-holders are complying with the rules, but said “there are breaches of the regulations” by some pub holders.

“People need to behave,” he told the Cork station, adding:

“There is an obligation on everybody to behave. Personal responsibility matters here”.

The 20 July reopening date for all publicans “could be delayed”, said the Taoiseach, who added the government is “very worried” about some of the scenes witnessed over the weekend.

Meanwhile the Chief Executive of the Licensed Vintners Association has said that gardaí should intervene to deal with pubs flouting rules on take-away drinking, following scenes of busy streets in Dublin on Saturday night. 

Donal O’Keefe, speaking on RTÉ’s Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme, said images of hundreds of drinkers, with little social distancing or mask-wearing, were a major concern. 

Many of the images shared were of Dame Court in the city, which has several nearby pubs including the Stags Head. In a statement, the Stags Head pub said it wanted to reaffirm it has been closed since 15 March. 

The images – which circulated on Twitter and on social media on Saturday night – have prompted concerns about a resurgence of Covid-19 in Ireland. 

“It’s a shocking situation. It’s a disgraceful business. It should not be happening,” O’Keefe said. 

Pubs and licensed premises are legally permitted to sell alcohol for take-away or to be consumed off the premises, but the alcohol cannot be consumed within 100 metres.

However, few pubs would have operated such a service before the pandemic.

“This situation was never contemplated, but it’s causing huge problems in town now,” O’Keefe said. 

He said that if pubs and restaurants were not following the law, then gardaí should take action. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that as of last night, 6,000 premises had been checked by gardaí across the country.

“What we found were that the vast majority were compliant. We did find breaches of the regulations. We also found breaches of the licensing laws, in a minority of cases.”

The Taoiseach said today the scenes were “very worrying”. He added that the opening hours and the off-site consumption rules were not being followed in some cases.

O’Keefe said this morning: “We’re hugely concerned that the actions of an irresponsible few could damage the entire industry. It’s very damaging for the reputation of pubs in Dublin, what’s going on. It’s very damaging for the image of the city.” 

O’Keefe stressed that the images of people seemingly ignoring public health guidance as they milled around Dublin pubs was a separate issue from the full re-opening of bars and pubs. 

Since 29 June, many pubs have already re-opened early as restaurants. 

“It’s very important to realise that this is a separate issue from pubs re-opening. Pubs re-opening for food last Monday have to follow the guidelines,” O’Keefe said. 

This morning, justice minister Helen McEntee said that the situation needed to be continually reviewed.

“The vast majority of citizens, businesses, pubs and restaurants have complied with regulations,” she said. “We saw some scenes over the weekend that were disappointing and I would ask and I would urge everyone to comply with public health regulations because we have come so far.”

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“We have made such great progress and while we have been able to implement measures and bring them forward, what we don’t want is to have to re-implement any of these measures we have now relaxed.”

Concerns

Former health minister Simon Harris joined the chorus of people expressing concerns in recent days. “C’mon everyone. We’ve come too far to go back,” he tweeted. 

Over the weekend, gardaí began checking licensed premises to ensure public health guidelines were being followed. 

The inspections, named Operation Navigation, began at 7pm on Friday evening. Gardaí are expected to release data in relation to the operation this week. 

With reporting from Sean Murray and Christina Finn

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