Gardaí investigating after Christmas house party footage posted on social media

One video shows a group of topless men hugging one another in a house with Christmas decorations.
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By David Raleigh

Gardaí are preparing files for the Director of Public Prosecutions as part of investigations into alleged flouting of public health regulations at gatherings in Co Limerick.

The investigations relate to the breaching of regulations on mask wearing and social distancing in the town of Rathkeale, where gardaí said they encountered large gatherings over recent days.

It follows the sharing of videos of Christmas house parties on social media, which informed sources said took place in Rathkeale in recent days.

One of the videos shows a packed party in full swing in a house in the west Limerick town, the source confirmed.

Another video, believed to have been recorded in Rathkeale in recent days, shows a group of sweaty topless men hugging one another in a house with Christmas decorations.

A Garda spokesman confirmed that “files are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions following incidents encountered by gardaí in Rathkeale across the Christmas period involving gatherings by large groups at private establishments and on public thoroughfares in the town”.



In response to a query about the videos circulating online, the Garda spokesman said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on statements made by third parties or materials provided by third parties.”

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

“The Covid-19 Pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to all citizens to comply with public health guidelines and regulations.”

While some locals have complained that Rathkeale has been unfairly singled out, others complained that some visitors to the town have flouted the rules by attending house parties and not adhering mask wearing and social distancing.

The local community is very concerned and upset

Local Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, who contacted gardaí about the videos circulating online, said he believes “there needs to be a greater garda presence” in Rathkeale presently.

“I’ve asked for more garda resources to be dedicated to the town. The videos circulating are very alarming, and the local community is very concerned and upset and they feel forgotten about and left behind,” said Deputy Collins.

Figures published by the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre from December 8th to 21st show that the Adare-Rathkeale area, a population of over 27,000 which extends far beyond the Rathkeale town and into other west Limerick towns and villages, is above the national average with 353.7 cases of the virus per 100,000 population.

Other parts in Limerick are also above the national average, including Newcastle West and City East.

Communications specialist with Public Health Mid West, Fintan Walsh, tweeted that between last Tuesday and Friday “there was an increase of 240 Covid-19 cases in Limerick”.

Limerick’s 14-day incidence rate was “334.5 per 100,000 after 652 cases were recorded the past two weeks... we have yet to see the impact of Christmas celebrations,” Mr Walsh added.

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A Garda spokesman said “the Department of Health are the lead department with regard to the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

They said that temporary restrictions and regulations under the Health Act 1947 “provides for ‘restriction on travel’ and provides a long list of ‘reasonable excuse’”.

Gardaí said the wearing of face masks and social distancing was “personal social responsibility” and “not penal regulations”.

“An Garda Síochána can only enforce penal regulations, not guidelines,” said the spokesman.

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