Frontline Garda associations say their members have not been given any formal advice on how to police disputes over the non-wearing of face masks on public transport.
Both the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have called for urgent clarification on enforcing the facemask regulations, which begin today.
Under the regulations signed into law by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, passengers, unless they have a reasonable excuse, must comply with requests from an authorised person to wear a mask, and can be refused entry onto public transport.
If they don’t comply it is a criminal offence and they face arrest or a summons.
GRA interim assistant general secretary Dermot O’Brien said his members have been given no instructions. “We will be meeting management this week and will urge them to bring full clarity to how this should be policed — though we would hope a circular would issue sooner because the new regulations come into effect from Monday,” he said.
They will also seek “greater clarity” on the policing of licensed premises,” he said.
“We would be concerned that a lack of clarity around Garda powers for our members and the public could damage the excellent relationship that has been built up during the public health crisis,” he said.
Asked about comments from the National Bus and Rail Union that they will not police the non-wearing of masks and that gardaí will be called over any disputes, Mr O’Brien said: “Providing support on public transport is a normal part of a garda’s duty. Our members follow orders as directed but we would need clear instruction on how to deal with anyone not following the regulations. All our members know is that a passenger refusing to wear a face mask without good reason faces arrest and prosecution.”
Antoinette Cunningham, AGSI general secretary, said: “AGSI has received no instructions or guidance on the enforcement of regulations in relation to the wearing of masks on public transport.”
Garda HQ last night issued a circular on policing the face mask regulation.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it is too early for British holidaymakers to return to Ireland without quarantine.