News & Media

Justice must give more detail on proposed Garda powers

28 August 2020

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brexit, Northern Ireland and Justice
  • Howlin seeking detail briefing from Minister for Justice.
  • Bill will be rushed through Dáil on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • No detail provided yet on plan to make private gatherings of more than six an offence.

With plans to rush new Covid-19 enforcement powers through the Dáil next week, Labour Justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin has sought a detailed briefing from the Minister for Justice on her proposals.

Deputy Howlin said:

“The government is seeking to rush through new legislation next Wednesday and Thursday that would provide significant new powers to An Garda Síochána. Reports today indicate that the government plans to make it an offence for more than six visitors to gather in a private house. In my view this would be both unenforceable and draconian.

“A briefing document provided to the Oireachtas Business Committee on the proposed new powers seeking a pre-legislative waiver does not mention the plan to make private gatherings of more than six people an offence.

“What is listed in the short briefing document are proposals for additional enforcement powers where a bar or restaurant owner fails to comply with a direction from a Garda. It proposes a new ‘Immediate Closure Order’, and emergency closure order when directions are not followed, and the power to apply to the District Court for temporary closure. We would not have an issue with such powers, as it would protect responsible businesses in the hospitality sector from rogue operators

“The briefing does not outline any powers to enforce house parties or plans to create a new offence. It is not clear therefore if this will be done by regulation or with new legislation.

“The Cabinet is due to consider the proposed Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020 today, and I am calling on the Minister for Justice to provide a detailed briefing to opposition spokespeople, and detail clearly her plans for a new criminal offence for holding a gathering of people in your home.

“It is not acceptable that provisions of the bill or proposed new regulations would be leaked to the media, but not provided in the briefing to the Oireachtas Business Committee or Opposition parties.”