The Government will not be granting new powers to the Garda to enforce the additional Covid-19 restrictions that came in from midnight although the latest figures show that almost three-quarters of virus outbreaks were in private homes.
ardaí have the power, at present, to prosecute the organisers of indoor or outdoor events that breach the regulations.
And officials at the Departments of Health and Justice are currently examining the introduction of a graduated system of fines for those involved in public gatherings, which may lead to details of the changes being brought before the Cabinet for approval as soon as Tuesday.
But they will not include any measures which could result in officers entering private homes.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told Justice Minister Helen McEntee that he did not need extra powers to enforce the regulations.
But other senior gardaí are concerned that there is some public confusion over the limit of the powers given to members of the force and feel that government ministers should give greater clarity about their role in relation to breaches in private homes.
One officer pointed out last night that gardaí did not have the power to enter private property in relation to Covid-19 breaches and a constitutional challenge could possibly arise if they did. But he said this had not been made sufficiently clear to the public, resulting in confusion.
Gardaí will continue to rely on their graduated response policy to potential breaches of the Covid regulations, which was a tactic that proved very successful in the national lockdown earlier this year.
The Policing Authority has also indicated it would not be in favour of new powers.
Authority chairman Bob Collins said it held the view that emergency powers for An Garda Síochána should be at the minimum level possible.
He added: “There is a genuine and well-founded concern that extensive new powers for gardaí might not be a universal problem solver”.
Meanwhile, gardaí will ramp up crime prevention patrols and checkpoints this weekend as part of their High Visibility Nationwide policing Plan.
Patrols will be focused on locations such as public amenities, parks, and natural beauty spots.
Gardaí have also confirmed that checkpoints focusing on crime detection and prevention will take place nationwide this weekend.
The plan will supplement the work being done under Operation Fanacht and Operation Navigation, which both continue this weekend.
Members of An Garda Síochána will also increase community engagement to ensure the most vulnerable and isolated people have access to a range of services that they need.
Speaking today, Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey said, “Since the start of the pandemic, Garda members throughout the country have been helping the vulnerable and those who feel isolated. This involved simple, but important tasks such as collecting their prescription, delivering their pension, or even socially distanced contact.
“If people need such assistance or know someone who does, please contact your local Garda station. We are here to help,” Deputy Commissioner Twomey said.
Source: Irish News