Gardaí had to break-up a road bowling event attended by at least 50 people in Cork in breach of Covid-19 public health regulations at the weekend.
The outdoor gathering was reported to be taking place along roads in the Bottlehill area of Burnfort, a few kilometres south of Mallow, at around 1.30pm on Sunday.
Gardaí from Mallow attended at the scene and took the names and addresses of dozens of individuals.
A garda spokesman said a number of fixed penalty notices were issued in respect of suspected breaches of the 5km travel restrictions, and he said garda investigations into the incident are ongoing.
Meanwhile, gardaí are planning to mount more Covid-19 checkpoints on backroads across West Cork after they found a number of people using regional and minor roads to visit beaches and forests beyond their 5km limit at the weekend.
The policing response comes as gardaí confirmed they have issued 400 fines for non-essential travel since the introduction of the fines last Monday, with the vast majority – over 300 – being issued over the weekend.
They reminded people they are only allowed to exercise within 5km of their home, and that the 5km limit includes the distance travelled to a location to exercise.
"In other words, you can’t travel more than 5km to a location to exercise," a Garda spokesman said.
In West Cork, a man with an address in Westmeath was among 36 people who were issued with on-the-spot fixed payment notices, or €100 fines, on Sunday after he was stopped at a checkpoint in Nohoval – a distance of some 250km – and was deemed to be in suspected breach of the Government’s level 5 travel restrictions without reasonable excuse.
Fixed payment notices were issued to two men who were stopped in a car at a checkpoint in Innishannon after they said they were heading to Skibbereen. The car was later found to have no NCT and no insurance, and Garda investigations into that matter are ongoing.
Gardaí also issued a number of fines to people visiting Garretstown beach after they were deemed to have travelled beyond their 5km limit.
It was part of a major ramping up of policing operations countrywide as part of Operation Fanacht in support of the Covid-19 public health measures, which included a significant number of static and mobile checkpoints, as well as high-visibility patrols of popular locations such as public amenities, scenic areas and parks, focused on detecting and preventing non-essential travel.
Under level 5 restrictions, people are required to stay at home except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, but can exercise within 5km of their home.
Chief Supt Con Cadogan of the West Cork Garda Division said gardaí were working hard to enforce the 5km travel limit as part of wider public health efforts to curb the surge of Covid-19.
He said members were keenly aware of the pressure their medical colleagues on the frontline in the health service are experiencing.
“We have no difficulty with people who have a genuine or valid reason for travelling beyond their 5km limit,” he said.
“But everybody has to take personal responsibility for this. It is up to everyone to play their part. I am appealing to the community for their support in this for the next few weeks.
“The message is very simple. If you are beyond your 5km without a reasonable excuse, you will be fined.”
He said gardaí also noticed an increased usage of regional, local or backroads by some people who were apparently trying to avoid the Covid-19 checkpoints, and he said a policing response to that issue is planned, with an increased Garda focus on such routes over the coming days.
Despite widespread general compliance with level 5 restrictions, gardaí posted details on their social media accounts of the various enforcement measures they undertook across the weekend.
In the Wicklow Division on Saturday, gardaí issued more than 70 fines and turned back over 200 vehicles after issuing cautions to the drivers.
In Co Longford, the Roscommon and Longford Roads Policing unit mounted an operation at Newcastle Woods in Ballymahon and issued over 30 fines, and asked the more than 70 people to turn their vehicles around and go home after they were found outside their 5km.