President Michael D Higgins has signed a bill into law allowing gardaí to issue graduated fines to people found to be in breach of the latest Covid-19 guidelines.
The Health (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed through the President’s desk earlier this afternoon. The legislation amends the health act of 1947.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the office of the President said: "Having considered the Health (Amendment) Bill 2020, the President has signed the Bill and it has accordingly become law."
Under the new bill, gardaí will be able to issue a fine of €1,000 to people suspected of being the organiser of house parties, either the owner of a property or a tenant.
Second offenders would face a €1,500 fine, or three months in prison, or both.
Third-time offenders could face a fine of €2,500, or six months in prison, or both.
The new bill also allows gardaí to call to properties hosting gatherings and ask those present to disperse. Anyone who does not comply with the gardai’s request could also receive a €1,000 fine.
Lastly, the bill also allows gardaí to issue fines to people who are suspected, with reasonable cause, of planning to attend a gathering.
Earlier this week, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris expressed some reservations about the potential use of the fines as a means to enforce level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
Speaking on Friday, Commissioner Harris said: "The good thing is the piece of legislation backs this up. I'm a public servant, a good and faithful servant at that, and I'll do as I'm told.
"We have fines, but they are set in an enforcement sphere. We have to discern then what our policy and practice are with respect to that enforcement,” he said.