Cash penalties Covid-19 fines approved after Dail vote
The fines system for breaches of Covid-19 regulations passed the Dáil by 85 votes to 53 this afternoon.
The legislation was adopted without amendment.
It transferred immediately to the Seanad, where it is expected to pass all stages later tonight.
“For the vast majority of people, this legislation won’t actually apply to them,” Justice Minister Helen McEntee said.
“Earlier on we brought forward legislation specifically relating to pubs, restaurants and premises that were selling alcohol, because while the vast majority of these premises were compliant, for those who weren’t there was no penalty.”
As a result the number of repeat offenders had “very quickly dropped and disappeared,” she said. “What we're trying to do here is very similar.
“For those who are adhering to the guidelines, these regulations won't apply to them. But those who are continuously breaking guidelines are putting others’ health at risk, there needs to be a very clear sanction.”
The current penalties are up to €2,500 or six months in prison, because of past legislation dating back to the 1960s, and the new law was designed to make the penalties fair for the stages involved, she said.
That's why a limit had been set at up to €500 for a first offence, she said, and this was .supported by the Garda Commissioner.
“We haven’t brought about this particular measure because we want to, because we're trying to be mean, because we’re trying to stop people’s fun,” she said.
“Far from it. There aren’t going to be Garda going around looking into people's windows. What we're doing is very much connected to and related to large gatherings in homes, and what we’re trying to do is respond to that,” she said.
“Those who are not breaching any guidelines will not come into contact with the Gardaí or with this legislation, but for those who are, we do need to send a message.”