The Transport Minister expects Gardaí to reconsider the operation of coronavirus checkpoints after long traffic jams were reported this morning.
Checkpoints were rolled out around the country from midnight last night in a bid to discourage people travelling across county lines, under Level Three restrictions.
The AA has warned that Operation Fanacht appeared to unfairly target morning commuters – many of whom were entitled to be on the road as they travelled to work and dropped their children to school.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening the Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said he expects Gardaí to take another look at the operation in the coming days.
“That is a matter I think the Gardaí will probably review, I would imagine, after what has happened today and that experience,” he said.
He said the checkpoints were there as a signal that that under Level Three, “we do have to start only going to work if it is essential and only take those long-distance commutes if it is essential.”
“I have every sympathy for anyone who is stuck in a traffic jam like that,” he said.
“I know it is deeply frustrating and hugely annoying so I can imagine their frustration. The Gardaí have to have responsibility for their approach.
“There was a need to remind people that we actually have to address this COVID crisis and part of that is that we actually do adhere to the rules; that we are not taking unnecessary journeys.
“For essential purposes we can leave county, be it for school or work, but it does have to be essential and the Gardaí are there as a reminder of that and how they manage their operations is a matter for the Gardaí.”
He warned that “we don’t want to go back to where we were last March” with checkpoints on the streets to stop people travelling further than 2km and said the Government consider introducing fines for breaches of COVID regulations.
“You would have to make sure it is workable; you would have to get it right,” he said.
“By and large, most of the measures have worked on the basis of social solidarity, people adhering to the law.
“If there are instances where people are not and an on-the-spot fine system may be helpful – not huge fines but something that like we do in other areas – I wouldn’t rule that out.”
Minister Ryan said he would be concerned that introducing fines may erode the solidarity that underpinned the first lockdown.
“I tend to believe that the approach of solidarity has worked,” he said. “The vast majority of Irish people have adhered to restrictions.
“I suppose, at a certain point, there may be time when people are saying, ‘why am I going to this bother if other people are flagrantly avoiding taking responsibility.’
“It is only in those circumstances that you might consider stronger measures.”