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76 arrested for allegedly breaching Covid-19 public health regulations

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said there is still a high level of public compliance with the guidelines.

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris during a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris during a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris during a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

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

Between April 8 and April 25, gardai arrested 76 people while another two people were also arrested on the instruction of a medical professional.

There were another 760 people arrested for other alleged offences after being held by gardai enforcing the Covid-19 restrictions.

These range from incidents such as drink-driving detected at checkpoints, drug seizures and public order offences.

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrives for a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrives for a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrives for a press conference outside Garda headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The latest figures come as Garda Commissioner Drew Harris urged people to comply with the restrictions ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

Speaking at Garda headquarters in Dublin, Mr Harris said compliance with the restrictions is high and arrest is a last resort.

He said: “You are not talking about huge numbers overall and that fits with our overall use of the enforcement part of the regulations.

“The major thing for me and how we are supporting the health authorities in terms of the restrictions is that we maintain public sentiment and that we make it clear this is very important and that self-discipline is required from individuals.

“The operation this week is about engaging with people, informing them and asking for their co-operation.

“Enforcement is always there but it is at the far end of an exchange.”

Mr Harris has said gardai do not have powers to enforce restrictions on day trippers from Northern Ireland.

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

Concerns have been raised about visitors from Northern Ireland travelling south of the border ahead of the May Bank Holiday weekend as the restrictions do not apply to people visiting the state.

Day trippers from Northern Ireland cannot be arrested because of the legal loophole.

Mr Harris said gardai will “engage with” day trippers visiting from Northern Ireland.

He said: “This matter has been raised with the Attorney General and our interpretation of the regulations is correct.

“A day tripper to the jurisdiction can practically only be people from Northern Ireland.

“Because their place of residence isn’t here, the regulations as they pertain to essential travel do not apply to them.

“At the same time, our regulations for essential travel are pretty much of the same nature as the ones seen in Northern Ireland.

“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.

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Vehicles stop at a Garda checkpoint in Dublin’s city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

Vehicles stop at a Garda checkpoint in Dublin’s city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Vehicles stop at a Garda checkpoint in Dublin’s city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

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

Large numbers of Garda checkpoints on main arterial and smaller roads have been set up across the country.

Gardai have been deployed at checkpoints nationwide to prevent people from travelling across the country for the May bank holiday weekend.

Operation Fanacht will see an extensive network of checkpoints established across the country.

Garda will also be patrolling tourist hotspots, major parks and walking routes in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Harris said people who make unessential journeys are being challenged by gardai.

He said: “Our experience from the checkpoints is that people have a reason for that journey or there is an essential purpose. People are being challenged about why they are out and about.”

The operation, which started at 7am on Tuesday, runs until the end of the May bank holiday weekend on Monday night.

It will involve checkpoints on many main routes, and thousands of mobile checkpoints on secondary routes and in towns and villages.

The operation will also see gardai conduct high-visibility patrols at major tourist locations, parks and beauty spots.

At any one time, there will be more than 2,500 gardai involved in checkpoints or high-visibility patrolling.

There will also be patrols near the border as previously seen around the Easter holidays.

PA