Shops warned Gardai to clampdown on 'rogue retailers' open despite Level 5 lockdown
ROGUE non-essential retailers who have stayed open despite the country moving to Level 5 of Covid restrictions face prosecution as gardaí prepare a clampdown.
Also, supermarkets selling non-essential items like clothes and toys also face enforcement action.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said retailers both large and small need to abide by regulations and “the spirit of regulations” or face prosecution.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This week, Varadkar said that despite reports that the legislation as it stands is unenforceable, the gardaí have sufficient powers to bring enforcement action against rogue retailers.
“What we are saying to them (retailers) is you need to abide by the regulations and you also need to abide by the spirit of the regulations.
“If you are a mixed retailer, and there are a lot of mixed retailers out there, you should separate your stock and only sell the items that are essential.”
Mr Varadkar cited supermarkets selling clothes as an example of a breach of regulations.
“For example, if you are a supermarket or a big store that has groceries and clothes, you should separate off the clothes,” the Tánaiste said.
“Workwear is OK but general clothes are not.
“And we have been in touch with gardaí that will be enforced.”
Responding to the legal position of some shops who have remained open by expanding their product lines to sell PPE, Varadkar described the practice as “not lawful.”
“If they are selling PPE that is one thing but if they are selling PPE in order to sell other products that’s a very different thing.
“The gardaí will be enforcing this legislation.
“If you are trying to use essential products as a means to open your store to sell non-essential products that’s not OK. That’s not lawful.
“And we will bring an enforcement action.
“And it’s also unfair. The number of small shops and retailers around the country that has had to close, it’s totally unfair for those who are allowed to stay open to somehow take advantage and it won’t be allowed.
The Tánaiste said that despite reports around the limitation of the legislation to prosecute breaches to the regulations, he was confident it was adequate.
“As of today having of engaged with the Department of Justice and gardaí I am confident that the law is adequate and strong enough to enforce it,” he said.
“But, if we need to change the law we will,” he added.
Drawing on the example of toy shops who have been forced to close the Tánaiste said it was possible for them to trade online.
“And click and collect is also allowed under the regulations. That is also a little different to spring.
“For supermarkets and big stores that are selling toys - that’s a breach of the spirit of the regulations and the letter of the regulations.
“That shouldn’t happen, they should stop doing that.
“Where a mixed retailer is selling non-essential products we can bring an enforcement action against them.”
The gardaí announced on social media they would be stepping up checks on compliance among retailers.
“As part of our National Operation An Garda Síochána is checking compliance with essential retail,” the official Garda Info account said in a statement on Twitter.
“Retail services under Level 5 are subject to Penal Regulations, they can and are being enforced.
“An Garda Síochána continues to use 4Es, Engage, Explain, Encourage and last Enforce.”