Covid-19: Gardaí concerned at public perception of 'lashing out' fines to enforce lockdown

New powers governing house parties may not become law until start of November
Covid-19: Gardaí concerned at public perception of 'lashing out' fines to enforce lockdown

Anti-lockdown protestors confronting gardaí at East Wall Road, Dublin, on Thursday.  Picture: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

Senior Garda sources are concerned that people will expect to see gardaí “lashing out fines left, right and centre” under the new Level 5 lockdown regulations.

Sources also cautioned that some of the new powers  — in relation to house parties and groups of 12 outdoors not wearing masks – may not become law until the start of November.

Separately, the staff body representing frontline gardaí said the “stronger line” now being taken against people breaching regulations “must not compromise” the relationship gardaí have with the public and the business community.

The Garda Representative Association said it was crucial there was “clear communication” about how the powers would be enforced.

It comes as around 100 or so ‘anti-mask’ and far-right protestors briefly blocked traffic at O’Connell Street Bridge in Dublin on Thursday afternoon before marching towards Dublin Port where they blocked traffic again.

Gardaí had barriers in place from early morning in anticipation for a scheduled anti-lockdown protest at Customs House.

An anti-lockdown protestor, proclaiming Covid to be a hoax, in Dublin, on Thursday. Picture:  Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

An anti-lockdown protestor, proclaiming Covid to be a hoax, in Dublin, on Thursday. Picture:  Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

A number of Garda units were deployed around the area from before lunchtime and a mobile public order unit was also positioned in the general area.

In relation to the new fines, senior Garda sources said there were fears at what people expected to happen.

“We’re concerned that there’s an expectation among the public that we are going to be lashing out fines left, right and centre and in doing so bring the Covid numbers way down,” said a source. 

"We don’t want a situation where people will look at how many fines we issue this week and compare that to next week and if enforcement drops people will think ‘oh, the gardaí are getting lax’.” 

Sources believe the fines in relation to house parties will be “more problematic” to enforce.

In a statement, the Garda Representative Association president Jim Mulligan said: “A decision has been made to take a stronger line with the very few people who have not shown responsibility by following guidelines that save lives and keep our economy going.

“The legislation has yet to be passed but we have been briefed by senior management and ministers have given everyone a fair idea of what is envisaged.” 

Mr Mulligan said: “It is important from a policing perspective, that the clear communication about how these powers will be enforced is maintained once our members get their orders.

“Minister McEntee has indicated fines will only be imposed as a last resort, which should mean the public will be accepting that punishments will only be applied to those behaving recklessly."

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