Gardaí seize cars and drugs at Covid checkpoints

Gardaí making sure people comply with Covid-19 travel restrictions have seized cars and drugs and sent a number of people home after intercepting them at checkpoints.
Gardaí seize cars and drugs at Covid checkpoints
Gardaí check reasons for travel at Glanmire, Cork, ahead of a possible surge in travel during the Easter bank holiday weekend. Pictures: Eddie O’Hare/Dan Linehan

Gardaí making sure people comply with Covid-19 travel restrictions have seized cars and drugs and sent a number of people home after intercepting them at checkpoints.

Exactly how many people have been caught so far will not be known until early next week, but there has been a lot of checkpoints set up in towns and cities all over the country.

This is all part of Operation Fanacht, launched on Wednesday to ensure public compliance with the travel restrictions introduced recently as part of Covid-19 public health guidelines.

The operation will run until Monday night, and will involve thousands of checkpoints every day.

At any one time, there will be more than 2,500 gardaí involved in checkpoints or high visibility patrolling.

However, while new Garda powers allow them issue fines for people who breach movement restrictions, enforcement will only be used as a last resort.

A Garda spokesperson told the Irish Examiner: “An Garda Síochána is adopting a graduated policing response in relation to compliance by individuals with the regulations.

“This will see the continued implementation of the four-step escalating principles of engage, explain, encourage, enforce.

“Enforcement will be a last resort and only when all other avenues have been exhausted in most cases.”

The operation has also seen gardaí conduct high visibility patrols at major tourist locations, parks, and natural beauty spots to ensure compliance with travel restrictions.

Among the seizures so far has been the €6,300 of suspected cocaine seized at a checkpoint in Bantry, Co Cork, yesterday.

Shortly after midnight, gardaí from Bantry Garda Station were carrying out a Covid-19 checkpoint in Newtown, when a car, with three men on board, was stopped and searched.

The driver was found with €4,200 of suspected cocaine and the front-seat passenger was found with €2,100 of suspected cocaine.

The suspected drugs were seized and will now be sent for analysis.

No arrests have been made but gardaí are following a definite line of enquiry.

A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Garda Tom Barry, Ballincollig chatting with motorist Terri Heffernan during the nationwide Garda check point on this Easter bank holiday weekend during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Garda Tom Barry, Ballincollig chatting with motorist Terri Heffernan during the nationwide Garda check point on this Easter bank holiday weekend during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Speaking at Bantry Garda Station, Superintendent Declan O Sullivan said: “Operation Fanacht will see extensive checkpoints established in Cork, and across the country to ensure public compliance with the travel restrictions introduced as part of Covid-19 public health guidelines.”

On Thursday night, one of the many checkpoints set up by gardaí around Cork was at the Glanmire exit on the M8, Junction 18.

At least one car was seized and a number of people were told to return back to their homes in Dublin and the midlands.

Earlier in the day, a car with four family members was stopped on the way to Fermoy, Co Cork. They are believed to have told gardaí they had come from Westmeath to collect a TV.

In Cork city, a checkpoint set up on the Commons Rd, Blackpool, caught a number of people who wanted to travel to Blarney, nearly 8km away.

Between Wednesday and Thursday evening, a total of 11 vehicles were seized by gardaí monitoring at checkpoints in Co Limerick.

The vehicles were seized under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act and not under new regulations.

    The current restrictions started on Friday, March 27. They mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to:
  • Shop for essential food and household goods;
  • Attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products;
  • Care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits;
  • Exercise outdoors - within 2kms of your home and only with members of your own household, keeping 2 metres distance between you and other people
  • Travel to work if you provide an essential service - be sure to practice physical distancing

All those seized were suspected of having no insurance and/or no tax.

At Henry St Garda Station, Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said: “Operation Fanacht will see an extensive network of checkpoints established in Limerick, and across the country to ensure public compliance with the travel restrictions introduced recently as part of Covid-19 public health guidelines.

“The operation will also help enforce road traffic legislation.

“We would ask people to adhere to the Government restrictions and not travel to parks, tourist locations, or holiday homes outside of the 2km limit. If you are stopped at a checkpoint, you will be turned back.”

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