Finding a way to impose fines on people travelling from Northern Ireland more than 5km across the Border is a “challenge” and “not straightforward”, the Minister for Justice has warned.
Helen McEntee also said that the planned new system of mandatory quarantine in homes for certain passengers travelling from abroad – and how it will be enforced – is still being “worked through”.
The Government announced a raft of new Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday including plans for garda checkpoints 5km from the Border and mandatory quarantining for air passengers who fail to produce a negative pre-departure PCR test.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he hopes many of the new regulations will be drawn up by the end of the week.
Some measures, however, will require changes to legislation that will take longer to draft and implement.
In an interview with LMFM radio station on Thursday, Ms McEntee spoke of the difficulties in cracking-down on non-essential cross-border travel.
At present, people found breaching the rules surrounding the 5km travel limit face fines of €100, but this does not apply to people coming from the North.
‘Complex and difficult’
Ms McEntee said: “It’s much more complex and difficult to enforce where you have people coming from other jurisdictions but we are actively exploring that.”
She said she is working with the Attorney General on “the possibility of an enforcement or a fine that could be applied for anybody that travels more than 5km from the Border” without a valid reason.
She added: “We have looked at this before and it’s not straightforward and what I don’t want is for us to implement…measures that are not implementable, that the gardaí find very difficult, that are not credible and that won’t work.
“So that’s why we’re looking at this again, but it is a challenge.”
She also said there was an open Border and gardaí will not be asked to “police every boreen or road”.
Ms McEntee was asked if the Health Act would have to be amended so that gardaí could instruct someone travelling from the North in breach of travel guidelines to turn back.
She suggested this would have to happen.
The Government announced on Tuesday that there will be mandatory quarantine at a designated facility for passengers who cannot provide a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test as well as all those travelling from Brazil and South Africa due to new variants of the virus there.
Other passengers are to be required by law to quarantine at home.
Ms McEntee was asked how it would be enforced by the gardaí.
She said gardaí will call to addresses that air passengers have listed on their passenger locator forms to check if they are home without entering the premises. She said there will be a “legal obligation” on them to remain at home.
“We won’t have 100 per cent of people coming in checked because I don’t think we need to,” she said, adding: “I don’t think that would be possible.”
Asked by presenter Michael Reade what would happen if the person did not answer the door or the phone, she said “this is being worked through at the moment”.
Mr Reade asked about scenarios where a person may claim they did not hear a knock on the door and Ms McEntee suggested gardaí would call to an address multiple times.
Ms McEntee said the people who will be quarantining are supposed to be able to present themselves.
“If you are not doing that, if you cannot do that, then a garda can safely assume that you’re not either at the residence that you say you are at or that you’re not quarantining,” she said.
Ms McEntee said gardaí need to be able to work “with a certain level of discretion” and said she believes that there will be the legal basis for prosecutions in such circumstances.
— to www.irishtimes.com