Thursday, 10 September 2020
Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Barry Ward (Fine Gael)
I want to address briefly what Senator Ruane said. I understand, and it was expressed in the debate in the Dáil also, that there were concerns about the protection of dwelling places in this legislation. I understand also where the motivation for this amendment is coming from but I disagree that it is not clearly set out in the Bill. Section 2 clearly defines the relevant premises to which the legislation applies. It refers to any premises where intoxicating liquor is sold or supplied for consumption on the premises. That comes in tandem with two things. First, definitions within the Intoxicating Liquor Act specifically define the difference between the premises that is the subject of a licence and other functions that may happen in the same building or on the same site. As is the case in my family, for example, where the family lives above the pub, the residential section of that building is not part of the licensed premises. There can be no doubt whatsoever but that the law is absolutely clear that there is a distinction between the licensed premises that is part of a building and any other part of the building. The law in respect of the Intoxicating Liquor Act does not apply to anything other than the licensed premises.
In addition to that, there is a very clear and much-litigated provision in Article 40.5 of the Constitution, which refers to the inviolability of the dwelling. That is something I have stood by as a barrister for many years. The point Senator Ruane makes about gardaí not being able to enter a premises without a warrant is right but I say that is already a constitutionally enshrined provision and this Bill neither does nor could change the supremacy of that provision within the Constitution.
I understand the motivation behind this amendment. It is well-intentioned but it is simply not necessary. My concern, if it were to be accepted, is that it would introduce more confusion. It would suggest that there is somehow a way in which gardaí would be entitled to interfere with that inviolable dwelling place. It might be attached to a pub, above a pub or in the same building. There is not, and the clearest way we can make that obvious is by not changing the way the section is currently framed.