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Dublin: 21°C Tuesday 9 August 2022

'Valley of the squinting windows': Taoiseach disputes claims of holidaymakers arriving in Ireland for Easter weekend

Varadkar says the number arriving on flights and ferries is “very minimal”.

Gardai stopping cars at a checkpoint near the Bray exit off the M11 this morning, as part of Operation Fanacht.
Gardai stopping cars at a checkpoint near the Bray exit off the M11 this morning, as part of Operation Fanacht.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has dismissed reports that tourists are arriving in Ireland on flights and ferries for the Easter weekend but said the situation will be kept under review. 

His comments come following a lot of anecdotal reports online of tourists coming off ferries and going towards their holiday homes.  

Varadkar said the number of people coming in by ferry is “really minimal” and that the number of people coming in on flights is down 95%, “and those who are, are Irish citizens returning home”. 

“It is something that we’re going to keep under review because we know that in other countries where they’ve successfully suppressed to contain the virus, like China for example, like Singapore. Their difficulty now is largely imported cases so you know we do know that something we have to monitor and monitor very closely,” Varadkar said.

Irish Ferries would not comment on passenger numbers but said it is continuing to operate schedules linking Ireland to Britain and France.

It said these routes play a critical role in the supply chain, “ensuring our supermarket shelves remain stocked and important pharmaceutical and medical supplies are shipped”.

“While these services are also available for essential travel (such as repatriation, travel for essential workers, or to care for loved ones or vulnerable relatives), the governments in Ireland, Britain and France have introduced restricted movement measures, and Irish Ferries is advising its passengers of the terms of these measures,” the company said in a statement. 

‘Valley of the squinting windows’

Gardaí have been carrying out hundreds of checkpoints around the country since Wednesday as part of Operation Fánacht, propped up by the new policing regulations signed-off on by Health Minister Simon Harris, along with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Attorney General this week. 

Measures in place at present mean members of the public must stay at home, except to gather essential goods, to provide essential care, or to get a brief spell of exercise within 2km of their home. Only essential workers, such as hospital staff and those in the food processing industry, are permitted to leave their homes outside of these measures. 

Gardaí manning a checkpoint on the M11, out of Dublin towards Wexford and Wicklow, said the vast majority of drivers were legitimately on the move and complying with restrictions after the video made rounds online. 

“There has been very good compliance with the travel restrictions and we want to thank the public for this,” a garda spokesperson said, adding that “ it is vital that this continues”. 

The new gardaí powers to arrest or detain individuals who might be travelling to holiday homes or caravan parks over the long weekend has been extended until 5 May. Those arrested could face a heavy fine of €2,500 or a jail sentence. 

Gardaí said they will be releasing information on the number of times new regulations were used over the bank holiday early next week. 

In Northern Ireland, the PSNI has created a webpage for people to report instances where social distancing is not being adhered to.

Varadkar told reporters today that he doesn’t envisage the same system being introduced here as we are not going to overcome Covid-19 by becoming “the valley of the squinting windows”. 

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He said he’s seen people in the UK reporting others for going for a second run or for being 2.1km for their homes and he doesn’t think that’s a space Ireland should be in

“I don’t think that we will suppress this virus by becoming the valley of the squinting window. I think will suppress this virus by doing the right thing by each other and doing the right thing by our neighbours, and by following the advice that we’ve received from our expert doctors and expert team.”

- With reporting from Céimin Burke 

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