TD Bríd Smith has said that the graduated penalties are a way for the State to deflect from its failure to tackle the pandemic, in a move to shift blame onto people rather than admit it allowed the virus to regain a grip on the country.
It is understood that the Cabinet sub-committee for Covid-19 has asked the Department of Health and Department of Justice to draft legislation for a system of fines for people who breach Covid-19 restrictions, such as not wearing a face mask or leaving their county for non-essential reasons.
Ms Smith said that gardaí are already able to take steps against those breaking the rules: “In the case of people not wearing face masks, they are obliged to wear them on public transport and in shops.
“Now if they refuse to do it... the gardaí are actually able to remove them already from those locations.
“Slapping fines on people is a crude and blunt instrument in order to try and control something that is out of the Government’s control.”
Ms Smith said that her party will strongly oppose the proposals for the fines: “We need massive investment in our health services, in our schools.
“It’s really interesting that the cross-Border measures that are required are not being implemented, but this, the fines being issued on people is the first real cross-Border measure that’s being implemented with uniformity, both in the six counties and in the south.
“I think it’s not acceptable and we will definitely be voting against it,” she said.
Fines of €2,500 are already in place for breaches of public health regulations such as organising a public gathering or not wearing a mask on public transport.
Gardaí have recommenced Operation Fanacht to support compliance with new Level 3 restrictions around the country, in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Some of the restrictions in the Government’s Living with Covid-19 plan carry fines or prison sentences while others rely on the public's willingness to adhere to the measures.