Level 5: €1000 fine for house parties under new proposals

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Updated: 8.55pm

Gardaí will be given new powers to fine people who hold house parties or breach travel restrictions under new measures agreed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Anyone who throws a party at home could be fined €1,000 and jailed for up to a month under the proposals. On-the-spot fines for breaching Covid-19 restrictions will be up to €500, according to the plans.

Ministers held an incorporeal meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the new enforcement legislation which will apply for the six-week Level 5 lockdown.

One source told The Irish Times that gardaí will be empowered to attend homes holding parties and ask the owner to stop the event. If they do not do so, they can be fined €1000 on their first offence or jailed for a month.

This will rise to €1,500 on the second offence or a jail sentence of three months. On the third offence this rises to €2,500 or six months imprisonment.

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Fines of €60 are being considered for people who breach the 5km restrictions due to come into force on Thursday, according to the Irish Times.

A similar fine is also being considered for those who refuse to wear face masks in public areas such as shops and public transport.

The Cabinet has also agreed the number of people permitted to attend a funeral will be increased to 25 under Level 5 restrictions, in line with those permitted to attend weddings.

The legislation relating to the new restrictions and fines is being given priority status and could come before the Dáil as early as this week.

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The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that penalties for people who breach Covid-19 restrictions will be “helpful” and “play a role” in curbing the spread of the virus.

“They won’t be necessary to encourage the right behaviour on behalf of every individual but they will play a role and I think they’ll have a marginal effect,” he said.

“And every marginal will be helpful in terms of the challenge we have to overcome.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said fines were necessary to get the whole population to adhere to guidelines.

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"We need to ensure that people abide by the new rules and regulations so that we don't have two tiers here, one which is the vast majority of people abiding by the rules for the greater good and a small number of people not doing that.

"We have to ensure that gardaí have the powers that they need to intervene when and where possible and necessary," Mr Coveney added.

However, Peter Lunn from the ESRI said penalties for breaching guidelines will have limited success in changing people's behaviour: "It's true that some degree of punishment and financial incentive can make some difference to behaviour, but it's going to be quite small.

"Detrimental effects aren't very strong and the probability of being caught is probably fairly low in most instances. So people who are screaming for more fines and greater punishments, it's an understandable emotion, but it's not a solution."

Under the Level 5 plan, schools and childcare facilities will remain open, as will construction sites and manufacturing, but non-essential retail businesses and services such as hairdressing will be forced to close, plunging tens of thousands of people into unemployment and costing the exchequer hundreds of millions of euro in lost taxes and in welfare payments.

In a televised address to the country from Government Buildings last night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while the restrictions of recent weeks have “slowed the spread of the virus, this has not been enough, and further action is now required”.

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