Covid-19 fines approved by Dáil amid pushback from Sinn Féin

ireland
The new legislation will see gardaí given the power to issue fines to those found breaching pandemic regulations. Photo: File photograph.
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Digital Desk Staff

The Dáil has voted in favour of a new bill which will introduce a range of fines to enforce Covid-19 rules.

The new legislation will see gardaí given the power to issue fines to those found breaching pandemic regulations.

The fines include a possible €500 on-the-spot penalty for those not wearing a face mask on public transport or in shops, or for those travelling beyond the five kilometre limit of Level 5.

Other offences such as hosting a house party could see a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or up to six months in prison for repeat offenders.

Sinn Féin has said the Government is asking for a “blank cheque” with the legislation’s application and that more time should be given to scrutinise the bill.

“The application of those fines, what they will apply to, will not be for members of this house,” the party's health spokesperson David Cullinane said.

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“It will be but for you to set, by way of regulation. And what you are asking us to do, is to give you a blank cheque to go and to draft the regulations.”

The objective is to prevent the kind of behaviour that endangers others.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the new fine system is not designed to punish people but to prevent behaviour that “endangers others”.

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“The fixed charge system being proposed will help, we hope, to change behaviour,” she said.

“This is important to note however that the Government’s objective here is not to catch people out, it’s not to try and punish people who are adhering to guidelines, or even those who make mistakes because we all make mistakes – the objective is to prevent the kind of behaviour that endangers others.

“We do not want to see large numbers of fines issued for non-compliance.”

The bill is expected to go before the Seanad for approval later today.

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