Thursday, 10 September 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
48. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the nature and extent of consultation between her Department and the Department of Health on the guidelines published in SI No. 326 of 2020 (Health Act, 1947) (Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions) (Covid 19) (No. 4) Regulations 2020; the nature and extent of consultation with An Garda Síochána on the instrument; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22832/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 48 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the development of public health regulations and guidelines in response to the current pandemic is led by my colleague, the Minister for Health. As Minister for Justice, I have no role in the coordination of this. My Department provides support for the public health regulations by consulting and advising on issues relating to Garda enforcement of the public health measures and through consultation and coordination with An Garda Síochána and any other relevant agencies.
Under the recently inserted section 31A of the Health Act 1947, the Minister for Health, when making Covid-19 regulations, specifies which of those regulations are penal provisions. Non-compliance with a penal provision, or in the first instance, a Garda direction to come into compliance with a penal provision, is an offence. In making such regulations, the Minister for Health consults with relevant Ministers. Throughout this consultation process, my Department engaged with An Garda Síochána in relation to enforcement of those provisions.
In supporting the public health regulations, the Garda Commissioner and his senior team have implemented a carefully graduated policing response, based on its strong tradition of policing by consent. Garda members engage, explain and encourage members of the public to comply and, only as a last resort, make use of their enforcement powers under these regulations. These principles have been central to the policing operation over the last six months.
In order to ensure that the policing of these public health restrictions is carried out in an appropriate, proportionate and human rights compliant manner, the Policing Authority were requested to review the policing performance of an Garda Síochána and to provide reports to myself as Minister. These reports have been published throughout on my Department's website. I am glad to note that the Authority has consistently found the performance of An Garda Síochána to be of a consistently high standard in supporting the public health guidelines.
In that context, I am informed that under Operation Navigation, An Garda Síochána has conducted thousands of checks on licensed premises, and continue to find widespread compliance with the public health guidelines. There is, however, a small cohort of premises that are not complying with the public health measures where enforcement becomes necessary.