Noel Baker: The point of the coronavirus check

On Tuesday evening, tongue presumably in cheek, C103 GAA commentator Paudie Palmer spelled it out.
Noel Baker: The point of the coronavirus check

On Tuesday evening, tongue presumably in cheek, C103 GAA commentator Paudie Palmer spelled it out.

“Just a reminder that as and from midnight tonight, a border check will come into being in Innishannon, only full time West Cork residents will be allowed through,” he tweeted. “Tax exiles and holiday home owners will be turned back #stayathome”

With the announcement at roughly the same time from Minister for Health Simon Harris that gardaí would now

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This is just the latest staging post in the extraordinary schedule of a pandemic which has turned Ireland and the world upside down.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, outlining how the measures will operate, was at pains to stress that as far as members of the force are concerned, it will be business as usual, community policing, with much more carrot than stick.

We don’t expect conflict, he said, while also asking anyone with concerns about others in “very blatant” breach of the regulations to contact gardaí To report it.

Even before the Commissioner’s briefing, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties argued that these new extraordinary powers should not be used. ICCL Executive Director, Liam Herrick, said:

“The approach of An Garda Síochána up to this point has been based on consent and has been for the most part successful.

We urge both Government and gardaí to continue this approach. The vast majority of people have been observing the advice to stay at home and restrict movements to what is essential for the past two weeks.

“So it is not clear there is any demonstrated need to move from consent to enforcement and we urge the Commissioner to make it clear that the introduction of these regulations does not lead to any significant change in the operational approach of the gardaí.”

However, the Commissioner answered that, at least in part, when referring to slippage in compliance levels, with people veering beyond the 2km zones around their homes, undertaking unnecessary journeys, even house parties. Earlier this week the Garda Twitter account referred to a vehicle stopped in Fermoy, those inside having travelled from Meath “for the spin”.

From West Cork to Donegal fears have been voiced of weekenders descending en masse.

The new powers are in force, initially at least, until midnight on Easter Sunday.

According to Liam Herrick: “That short period and the link to independent public health advice is important from a human rights perspective.”

But he also noted that the lock-in regulations have been in force for 12 days and counting and that “during that time the gardaí have managed successfully without recourse to criminal sanctions, indicating perhaps that there is no need for these regulations”.

Others, including solicitors, have also voiced concerns. While there is a broad acceptance these are extraordinary powers granted in extraordinary times, the very proportionality of their use will be analysed when that crisis starts to shift.

“It is imperative the powers are lifted at the earliest point possible,” Mr Herrick said.

No one wants a checkpoint at Innshannon forever.

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