THE PSNI already has “the power to take action” against people making non-essential journeys, the Department of Health has said, amid calls for motorists from the Republic to be fined for trips across the border.
There have been calls for similar penalties to be put in place on both sides of the border as part of an all-Ireland strategy to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Stricter Covid-19 regulations, including €100 fines for drivers who cross into the south without a “reasonable excuse”, came into force in the Republic on Monday.
Mobile checkpoints were set up close to the border as part of the crackdown.
Fianna Fáil senator Robbie Gallagher called on Northern Ireland authorities to also consider issuing fines to anyone from the Republic who travels north on a non-essential journey.
Irish News readers have said drivers are continuing to cross the border to shop in the north this week.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said yesterday: “The public health regulations state you must not travel away from home without a reasonable excuse.
“The PSNI have the power to take action against those away from home without a reasonable excuse.”
Meanwhile, fines for non-essential overseas travel are set to increase to 2,000 euro, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin said around two-thirds of people arriving into the Republic from abroad were returning Irish holidaymakers.
He told the Dáil yesterday he had asked health minister Stephen Donnelly to sign off on the four-fold increase in fines.
“There is a sense that 500 euro is not a sufficient disincentive to travel abroad,” Mr Martin said.
“That will be increased. The government is considering increasing that to 2,000 euro to act as a significant deterrent to people travelling because all non-essential travel should be avoided.”
Mr Martin said he intends to bring legislation to cabinet to sign off on the increased fines and deal with mandatory quarantining.
Transport minister Eamon Ryan said the fines were being increased following consultation with public health officials.
“It would be completely unfair if we at home were restricting our movements, and restricting our lives in so many different ways, and at the same time non-essential travel was seen to be facilitated,” he told the Dáil.
Mr Ryan said the fines would be increased to 2,000 euro next week and that if there was any evidence that it was “not proving a restraint or restriction” the government would consider increasing it again.
The fixed penalty fine for breaching the Level 5 travel restrictions on overseas travel has already been increased from 100 euro to 500 euro.
Mr Ryan said he was in regular contact with his counterpart in the UK and said he would be updating minister Grant Shapps on the Irish government’s quarantining plans.
The Green Party TD was replying to Sinn Fein’s Darren O’Rourke, who described the government’s travel measures to date as “half-baked”.
“While the administration in London announced detailed plans for self-funded 10-day quarantine with strict measures and severe penalties for breaching it, you and your colleagues are still at a stage of confusion and indecision,” Mr O’Rourke said.
He said a system of mandatory quarantine for all non-essential arrivals needed to be introduced immediately and remain in place until infection levels dropped.
— to www.irishnews.com