Northern Ireland travellers deemed to be crossing the border unnecessarily have been turned back at gardai checkpoints.
rish Government measures that came into force on Monday prohibit people from travelling across the border without an essential reason, in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Anyone caught trying to cross the border without good cause could be liable of a fine of 100 euro.
Lockdown measures in place right across the Republic mean there are strict limits on travel, meaning most are confined to a 5km radius around their home, unless they can provide good reason.
DUP MP Ian Paisley described Garda checkpoints forcing Northern Ireland travellers to turnaround and go back to where they came from as effectively a closure of the Irish border and proof there is no need for a check on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
However, SDLP MP Claire Hanna said to draw comparisons between checks due to the coronavirus pandemic and a regulatory border because of Brexit were “nonsense”.
She said the checks had been in place all over the Republic of Ireland for months to stop the spread of the virus.
“To say they are the same as a hard border is like saying that police checking for drink drivers can somehow prevent all incidents of smuggling, fraud, burglary and assault,” she said.
“It’s misleading. We are dealing with complex political and regulatory issues, but it’s important we are honest with people that the Northern Ireland Protocol isn’t in place as a politically motivated punishment.
“It’s in place to address complicated, but real international trade rules.”
Mr Paisley said the situation was “a clear indication that if the government of the Republic of Ireland and the European Union need to seal their border they can”.
He said that while he welcomed the gardai checkpoints, it demonstrated the Northern Ireland protocol was unnecessary.
“They are entitled to do that to protect their own citizenship and their own country.”
The Irish Sea border avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland aligned with EU trade rules.
Mr Paisley said the situation was further evidence “if proof were needed” that the UK Government must immediately invoke Article 16 of the protocol.
Invoking Article 16 would allow the UK Government to suspend the protocol if it is causing major issues. The EU briefly invoked it last month after a vaccine row before backtracking.
Under the Republic of Ireland’s current Covid-19 public health restrictions, travel is restricted to within five kilometres of a person’s home except for essential reasons.
People travelling to an airport or port to take a holiday abroad are liable for a 500 euro fine for undertaking a non-essential journey.
The Irish Government has advised against all non-essential travel.