Seanad debates

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

10:30 am

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Fianna Fail)

Like other speakers, I also have some concerns about this area. It is important that at this stage a full explanation is given of what these measures are expected to achieve. The great success to date in containing the virus has not been necessarily due to the actions of An Garda Síochána or the authorities but due to the willingness of the Irish people to follow the public health guidelines, as set out. We have to be very careful in introducing these measures that we do not lose that level of public support and these are not seen as Big Brother measures.

I am taken to some extent with the way the public have moved in recent weeks and months. I am concerned that the authorities are not allowing people to attend matches. That is public health advice and we must be conscious of it but members of the public are starting to drift, and I understand the reason. Many people who do not get into the grounds where matches are being played are sitting on walls or climbing ladders and trees if they have a vantage point. That indicates to me that people are starting to move on so we must be careful because we will not restrain people with more laws.

We will have to accept that some people recognise that they will have to live with the virus for a protracted period. We do not want to subject people to the law in a manner that deters them from buying in to the public health message. There is a history of that in our culture. In a bygone era, when people were prevented from holding classes and religious services, the hedge school and mass rock developed. We have to ensure that when we bring forward more laws and measures in this House we do so cognisant that the vast majority of people will do what is right and what is expected of them and that the laws should only be in place for enforcement on those who show scant regard for them. There are people who are doing that, and it is right that we bring forward these measures to address that. However, we cannot make criminals of the population at large. Having read the Bill, I do not believe the intention is to do that but my comments send a signal with regard to other rules and regulations being planned that we approach them in a careful manner that brings the people with us on this very difficult journey.

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