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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: Daytrippers to the Republic likely to be breaking law in Northern Ireland

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Position: Drew Harris

Position: Drew Harris

PA

Position: Drew Harris

Day trippers who travel over the border into the Republic are "likely" to be breaking the law in Northern Ireland, the Garda Commissioner has said.

Drew Harris outlined his position after it emerged that Garda officers are powerless to enforce coronavirus restrictions on day trippers from Northern Ireland.

Calls have been made ahead of the Irish May bank holiday weekend for the PSNI to take action against people here who flout the social distancing regulations in the Republic.

Garda officers have been ordered not to arrest anyone from Northern Ireland for suspected breaches of the Republic's coronavirus regulations because the emergency legislation only applies to residents in the south.

The Republic's legislation would only apply to people from here if they stayed overnight in a holiday home or other accommodation.

Speaking on RTE's Crimecall programme on Monday evening, Mr Harris said: "If they have travelled to us as day trippers out of Northern Ireland it's likely that they have breached the regulations as they are in Northern Ireland and the PSNI are out there as well."

The legal loophole has led to growing pressure on PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne to ensure those who have been detected making non-essential journeys over the border can be prosecuted in this jurisdiction.

We will engage with people from Northern Ireland who are here on a day trip - informing, educating them and looking for their support Drew Harris

Alliance MLA John Blair earlier this week asked the chair of the Policing Board to question Chief Constable Simon Byrne on the matter, asking if the day-trippers' details can be passed onto passed to the PSNI by the Garda.

On Tuesday, Mr Harris warned that gardai will "engage with" day trippers visiting from Northern Ireland ahead of the May bank holiday weekend.

"We are working closely with the PSNI, particularly in the border area, to ensure co-operation is happening and that policing on both sides of the border is complementary," he said.

"We will engage with people from Northern Ireland who are here on a day trip - informing, educating them and looking for their support."

The Garda Commissioner, a former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable, also stressed that gardai have not seen behaviour to give them cause for "particular concern" about people crossing the border contrary to restrictions on movement. He said: "In general people have been very compliant. We find breaches of the regulations where we have to engage in enforcement are very rare".

Large numbers of Garda checkpoints - involving more than 2,500 officers - have been set up across the country in a bid to deter people travelling for the upcoming bank holiday. Checkpoints have been situated on main arterial and smaller, rural roads. The operation, which will run until next Monday evening, will also see patrols near the border as previously witnessed during the Easter holidays. Gardai will also be patrolling tourist hotspots, major parks and walking routes in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

So far, gardai have arrested 76 people for allegedly failing to comply with restrictions on non-essential travel and exercise more than 2km from the home.

PSNI officers have issued over 350 coronavirus-related penalty notices and nearly 600 community resolution notices.

Belfast Telegraph