Healy-Rae says he will not force customers to wear face coverings

Healy-Rae says he will not force customers to wear face coverings
Michael Healy Rae

Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said he will not be forcing customers in his Kilgarvan shop to wear masks — but not because he is personally opposed to face coverings.

The wearing of masks in shops such as Mr Healy-Rae's has been legally mandatory since Monday, with a €2,500 fine or up to six months imprisonment available as punishment. 

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said she hopes that, while enforcement of the rules lies with the gardaí, engagement from shopkeepers can prevent the issue escalating to the point of intervention.

"The approach that we're taking would be similar to that of public transport," Ms McEntee said.

She said when people enter shops, there should be signage to encourage them to wear masks.

"As a last resort, An Garda Síochána could potentially be called," Ms McEntee added.

However, Mr Healy-Rae said that while there is "virtually full compliance" he would not be asking his staff to challenge those who aren't wearing masks.

"It's not about me, it's about every shopkeeper. Do I believe that shopkeepers should be tasked with the enforcement of these rules? Absolutely not.

"Our job is to run shops, not enforcing rules. If you're running a service station and selling fuel, do you check a person's tax and insurance? No, that's a job for the person who went to Templemore and became a garda. I don't want to be taking over the role of a garda. They don't have to do my job and I won't do theirs.

"If a person comes into my shop without a mask, am I going to say 'You have to leave'? I'm not going to do that. That's not my job."

Mr Healy-Rae said that "99.9%" of people are complying with the regulation, with cases where people forget the most common reason why a person doesn't have a mask on.

"We have our signs up and our sanitation area but we're not going to be standing at the door telling people they have to wear masks. We have enough to be doing."

Meanwhile, a leading medic has said that cloth face coverings remain more effective than clear plastic visors at protecting against the spread of the virus.

Dr Nuala O'Connor who is the Covid lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners, told RTÉ Radio that while visors can be useful for communications purposes, they are less useful than the face coverings advised by NPHET. Those are cloth coverings which cover the nose and mouth.

"We know that the virus is coming out in our breath in our coughs and in our sneezes. So, when you think about this, you want something that's going to capture any of those viruses so if you have something that fits snugly over your nose and your mouth, that's got the best chance of catching any virus particles. 

"Now, a face shield will offer you a good deal of protection as well, particularly from the person that you're interacting with. Most of the virus is going to be captured on the front of that face visor."
"I think what we have to do is we have to come back to what actually is the government recommendation. The government recommendation is for face coverings. And they specify that it is a cloth face covering as opposed to a visor."

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