Gardaí still waiting to get Covid-19 powers

Gardaí still waiting to get Covid-19 powers

Gardaí are still waiting on the Government to sign into the law the new regulations enabling police to use the emergency powers enacted two weeks ago today.

The delay follows public comments made by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris last Saturday morning that he expected to receive the regulations “within days”.

Last Friday, the Irish Examiner revealed that the regulations had yet to be signed by Health Minister Simon Harris.

Mr Harris has the power under the emergency Covid-19 laws to issue regulations on the sweeping powers contained within, including on house confinement, travel restrictions, closure orders, and detention of people — all subject to criminal sanctions if breached.

It is not clear what the hold-up is. It is understood there has been communication between the Department of Health and Department of Justice, Garda HQ, and the attorney general.

Some sources have said that legal issues regarding actual implementation may be complicating the drafting of regulations.

Various gardaí, from the commissioner down, have stressed that the vast majority of people are complying voluntarily with advice from gardaí if they are stopped.

And senior gardaí have stressed that they do have other powers – namely under the Public Order Act and road traffic legislation — to enforce much, though not all, of the instructions.

“There is frustration and bafflement as to why the delay has been going on so long with the regulations,” said a senior garda.

Another garda said: “Members could be at risk when advising and dealing with the public if the law is not clear and backs them up if the advice is not listened to and they need to enforce.”

Another source said: “It’s OK at the moment, as we have had no issues and compliance is very high and I don’t see the laws being used much, but we do need clear laws, just in case.”

The Garda Representative Association raised concerns on the regulations with the Department of Justice on Wednesday. GRA president Jim Mulligan said they pressed upon department officials the need to ensure the regulations were “robust and fit-for-purpose”.

The Government confirmed that new Garda powers, contained in Emergency Covid-19 legislation passed by by the Dáil last week, have yet to be transferred to the force.

“The associated regulations are being finalised," a spokesperson said.

The powers relate to enforcing limits on public gathering.

Update: The Government confirmed that new Garda powers, contained in Emergency Covid-19 legislation passed by by the Dáil last week, have yet to be transferred to the force.

“The associated regulations are being finalised," a spokesperson said.

The powers relate to enforcing limits on public gathering.

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