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Gardai handed new coronavirus enforcement powers

Health minister Simon Harris signs off on regulations bringing into effect emergency legislation passed last month to tackle Covid-19.

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Minister for Health, Simon Harris, at a Covid-19 press briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin. Varadkar has introduced a number of sweeping measures to tackle the coronavirus, including restricting all public gatherings to four people (Steve Humphreys/PA)

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, at a Covid-19 press briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin. Varadkar has introduced a number of sweeping measures to tackle the coronavirus, including restricting all public gatherings to four people (Steve Humphreys/PA)

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, at a Covid-19 press briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin. Varadkar has introduced a number of sweeping measures to tackle the coronavirus, including restricting all public gatherings to four people (Steve Humphreys/PA)

New regulations giving gardai beefed up enforcement powers to ensure compliance with coronavirus restrictions have been signed by the health minister.

Simon Harris’s move gives effect to emergency legislation passed in the Oireachtas last month.

It comes amid reports of increasing numbers on streets and fears people may be tempted to disregard social distancing rules over the Easter holiday.

The regulations will give gardai the power to issue specific fines for breaches and potentially detain people who are refusing to self-isolate.

Gardai had been relying on their existing public order powers since the current strict limitations on movement were ordered by the Government eleven days ago.

The Government had held off signing the regulations, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he only want to do so if “absolutely necessary”.

Mr Harris told RTE on Tuesday evening that it was important gardai had the powers in the “back pocket”.

“This evening myself and the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice (Charlie Flanagan) met with the Garda Commissioner (Drew Harris), the Attorney General (Seamus Woulfe) and we met the chief medical officer (Dr Tony Holohan) and this evening I will be signing regulations to give the gardai those powers,” he said.

“Let me say this though, the Garda Commissioner was very clear in this regard, the level of compliance is very high, the Irish people are being super.”

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met with Government ministers on Tuesday night to discuss the regulations (Garda/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met with Government ministers on Tuesday night to discuss the regulations (Garda/PA)

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met with Government ministers on Tuesday night to discuss the regulations (Garda/PA)

Minister Harris added: “But it is important the gardai have these powers in their back pocket so if they do need enforcement powers they have them.

“I think that’s what most people in this country would expect and want the gardai to have.

“They will continue their normal strategy of working with the people and assisting the communities but it is important that they have them there as a reserve in their back pocket should they be needed.”

PA