Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.37 17 Feb 2021


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An Independent TD has said the army should be used to police quarantine hotels.

The Government is finalising its plans for the introduction of a mandatory hotel quarantine system here, to stop the spread of coronavirus due to international travel.

Kildare-South TD Dr Cathal Berry told The Hard Shoulder the army should be drafted in, rather than private firms to provide security.

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He said the organisation and enforcement powers of the military make them best placed for this.

"The three big advantages that the Defence Forces would have over a private security firm - first of all it'd be discipline.

"We have some of the finest soldiers in the world, a very professional organisation, highly motivated - so I couldn't think of a better group of people, really, to be manning such a facility."

He also said that the Defence Forces have the "enforcement powers" that a private security company may lack.

"And thirdly then, just from a deterrent perspective, if you have people walking around in camouflage uniforms and maybe some of them even armed with pistols for instance, it does send out all the right signals that this country is taking its quarantine very, very seriously".

'Similar model to Portlaoise Prison'

He said this approach has been taken by New Zealand, which he described as a "poster child of how to run a country in a pandemic".

And he said this needs to be done right.

"We want to use mandatory hotel quarantine as a means to solve the problem in Ireland, not to cause it.

"We don't want these facilities to become epicentres for outbreaks, because that would negate the reason for having them in the first place".

Dr Berry said the army can be brought in for such tasks, as they are already used for Portlaoise Prison.

"The Government have actually tasked the military to provide security at that facility, so a similar model could be used for the mandatory hotels if required".

But he acknowledged the Defence Forces are almost "fully committed" with current assignments.

"The Air Corps are still flying test samples - swab samples - over to the lab in Munich in Germany on a daily basis now.

"And the army are fully committed to the vaccination centres and the testing centres all over the country."

"There isn't a whole lot of wriggle room, but if the number of tests are reducing - and that's where the trends are going at the moment - there may be capacity to redeploy some of our troops".

He also suggested, ideally, the Reserve Defence Forces would be mobilised.

But added: "This is an organisation that should be 4,000-strong, unfortunately they only have 1,500 people left now because they've been so poorly treated over the last 10 years".


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Coronavirus Defence Forces Dr Cathal Berry Hotel Quarantine Independent TD International Travel Quarantine Hotels The Hard Shoulder

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