Cormac O’Keeffe

Gardaí are to boost patrols of street drinking spots in a bid to prevent a repeat of images from last weekend of crowds consuming alcohol outdoors in Dublin and Cork.

The announcement comes before a planned meeting on today between Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

The Government called the meeting to discuss enforcement of Covid-19 regulations after the Cabinet on Tuesday rejected proposals from Minister Donnelly to introduce new fines for people congregating on the streets drinking.

Separately, the Irish Examiner understands that regulations empowering gardaí to impose fines in relation to house parties and non-wearing of face masks have still not been introduced, despite the passage of legislation last month.

After last weekend’s images of street drinking, the Taoiseach suggested a possible ban on takeaway pints from pubs.

This was later changed to proposed fines for those drinking, before the plans were shelved after pressure from backbenchers and the pub trade.

In a statement on Thursday, Garda HQ said that starting immediately they will be increasing “compliance checks and engagement” with people and their use of public areas in line with the Level 5 lockdown.

“An Garda Síochána will increase our patrols and engagement particularly in relation to gathering in large groups in open spaces,” it said.

“This will see increased Garda activity on foot, mountain bikes, and vehicle patrols in identified public spaces.”

An Garda Síochána is committed to acting in a proportionate manner and working with the community to achieve compliance.

It said that from the outset of the pandemic, gardaí had adopted a graduate policing response of “engage, explain, encourage, and, as a last resort, enforce”.

It said this was relevant to both Covid-19 regulations and other legislation, regulations, and byelaws.

“An Garda Síochána has lawful authority under various legislation to direct a person to desist from a particular course of action, without resort to initiating a prosecution,” it said.

“An Garda Síochána is committed to acting in a proportionate manner and working with the community to achieve compliance.”

It said gardaí would maintain a significant presence on the roads, continuing static and rolling checkpoints, to check compliance with travel restrictions.

It said they will continue to check retail and business premises.

It said that since October 30th there have been an additional 45 breaches of Covid-19 laws, including: seven alleged breaches of the Health Act 1947; eight alleged breaches by licensed premises; 29 alleged breaches by retail premises, and one alleged breach for face covering regulations.

Gardaí have commenced 493 Covid-19 related prosecutions to date.

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