Gardaí have begun a crackdown on retailers selling non-essential items.
Reports have started circulating on social media over the weekend of officers entering stores and requesting to speak to management.
Shoppers reported seeing staff talking to gardaí, and then shortly after sections of shelves of clothes and other items being cleared.
In some cases, staff at other stores not yet visited by gardaí were seen clearing away non-essential items.
According to the Level Five restrictions, “retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail should make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas”.
Gardai tweeted today: “As part of our National Operation An Garda Síochána is checking compliance with essential retail.
“Retail services under Level 5 are subject to Penal Regulations, they can and are being enforced.”
They added: “An Garda Síochána continues to use 4Es, Engage, Explain, Encourage, and last Enforce.”
Asked later how many stores they had visited, a spokesperson for the force said they "do not have those figures available".
A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland confirmed that: "In line with Level 5 Government Guidelines, our clothing sections are closed temporarily except for certain essential items [socks, underwear, and baby clothes]."
On Dunnes Stores home page, there is the following message: “Dunnes Stores are open as normal, so you can get fresh food and essentials.
“You can also pick up Click and Collect orders in store as usual.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar addressed the issue.
He said: “If you are a supermarket or a big store that has groceries or clothes you should separate off the clothes and not sell them,” he told RTE radio.
“Workwear is ok but general clothing is not. If you’re selling essential products that’s one thing, if you’re trying to use essential products as a means of opening your store that’s not ok, that’s not lawful and we will bring an enforcement action. Think of all the small shops and retail outlets that have had to close.
“It would be unfair for those allowed to stay open to somehow take advantage and it won’t be allowed.”
His comments come just days after smaller retailers called on the government to make sure large retailers don’t “abuse” their position and sell non-essential items, alongside essential items like food and toiletries.
Retail Excellence has called on the Government to ensure those retailers permitted to remain open during the current lockdown restrict their sales activities to essential items only.
Retail Excellence said its members have complained that some large retailers are "abusing" the current restrictions by selling non-essential items while being allowed to remain open to sell essential items.
Essential retail outlets include outlets selling products “necessary for the essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses”, pharmacies, and chemists.
The list also includes outlets selling health, medical, or orthopaedic goods, petrol stations, and outlets selling essential items for the health and welfare of animals and safety supplies.
Laundries, dry cleaners, banks, post offices, credit unions, hardware shops, builders merchants, garages, and bicycle shops are also considered essential.