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Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Act 2020: Motion (Continued)

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1000 No. 2
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee] Regarding the Commissioner, I would not, nor have I ever put words into his mouth or made any comments relating to the Commissioner without knowing whether or not they were his thoughts. In a letter to my Secretary General two days ago, he gave a clear commitment that he supported this legislation and its continuation. I would not ever put words into his mouth or say that he supported something when he did not.

This is not legislation that any of us wants to have here. Everybody has made that comment. It has been brought in for a specific reason, for the minority of people who are not compliant and are putting others at risk. What we have seen even in the short time since it has been introduced is that it has brought more people into compliance. I was speaking with the gardaí before this legislation was introduced and there was a higher number of repeat offenders who were continuing to break the rules, to open when they should not, or to go outside the regulations. However, once this legislation was introduced, the number of repeat offenders immediately reduced. That is not to say that everybody has been perfect but the fact that there is knowledge and understanding that there can be repercussions has made a difference. The vast majority of people are trying; the figures this week show that.

The numbers are moving in the right direction. We hope that they will continue to, and if they can, the most positive thing that can happen is that we move away from level 5, reopen our society, start to re-engage and can do so safely. We need to make sure that we continue to have the guidance, rules and regulations in place because unfortunately, as I have said, I do not think this will disappear in the next few months. We will have to live with this and work together to try to get through it. I know people will do that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath On a point of clarification, the Minister said that the Garda Commissioner gave her a letter. Will that letter or a segment of it be provided to us so that we know it is not just hearsay? That Minister said twice that she is not putting words in his mouth. I also asked the Minister a question about the Garda Commissioner and the game licence being stopped.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I am not letting the Deputy back in. The debate is over. If the Minister wants to clarify that point, it is up to her.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Apologies. There were two things that I did not clarify. If the Garda Commissioner writes to my Department, I am not sure whether or not that can be published but I can certainly check.

Regarding game and shooting, there seems to be a suggestion that the gardaí themselves decided that this was not something that could go ahead, which is simply not the case. We have a situation where if somebody plays golf and has a golf course within 5 km of his or her home, and decided to go out on his or her own to play golf as if they decided to go for a walk, he or she cannot do it. We have asked people to stay within 5 km of their home and only to move outside of that to go for exercise. This is a sport. They have fought for many years for it to be seen as a sport and in the same way that many sports are not going ahead with the level 5 restrictions, it is the same for shooting. This is not a decision of the gardaí. This is applied as part of the level 5 restrictions.

Deputy Fitzpatrick asked about the issue of mass and whether somebody would be sent to prison or fined. The answer is "No". While it is against the law, we have not imposed a penal provision in this regard. It might not make sense but a decision was taken that this was not something we wanted a penal provision to be attached to. It is against the law. We ask people not to attend. We have asked priests. This is a difficult time for those I know. Mass is important for them every week or every day but we are asking people, particularly throughout these level 5 restrictions, to adhere to these regulations. There is not a penal provision so a person will not be put in prison or fined.

  Amendment put.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time at 9.50 p.m.

  Sitting suspended at 9.35 p.m. and resumed at 9.50 p.m.


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