Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.10 30 Sep 2020


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Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said she believes the "heavy hand of the law" is not the way to deal with breaches of coronavirus guidelines.

She was speaking following criticisms of a large gathering of young people in Galway on Monday night.

Minister McEntee met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

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She told Pat Kenny: "Obviously COVID was top of the agenda, the enforcement of COVID, how they are feeling things are working on the ground, whether or not they need additional powers - all of these types if topics.

"And what the commissioner is very clear about in that in the vast majority of cases, for four Es as they call it - where they engage, educate, encourage and then as a last resort enforce - that it is working.

"And that it's just that initial engagement that people need".

"In relation to Galway last night [sic] I know people are upset by it and I don't condone it in any way, shape or form.

"But the Gardaí have said that the best way to deal with that is not to use the heavy hand of the law - it's to engage with younger people, it's to engage with the communities, the university of course has very helpfully come out with a very strong message on this as well.

"And where the law is broken and where something gets out of hand - where we saw that happened in the Oliver Bond - there are very clear roots and mechanisms and procedures the Gardaí can take."

"The Gardaí were back and forth to that particular incident a number of times, and it seems as though as it dispersed that's where a lot of the challenges actually happened... and then there was criminal activity that took place.

"So there are a number of investigations and streams that are being carried through there.

"But say the other night in Galway: this isn't a gathering that was organised and put up on Facebook.

"It was something that happened organically, and I suppose you have a lot of people who maybe didn't intend for it to get out of hand in the way that it did in terms of the large numbers.

"I don't want to turn around and say all of our young people are causing all of these problems.

"It's a very difficult time for them, and I think the way to deal with this is to engage with them.

"And not just the Gardaí: if there is a threat from a university that you could potentially lose your place if you are seen to consistently break COVID guidelines, that is a severe enough threat as far as I'm concerned".

McEntee: Using 'heavy hand of law' for COVID breaches is not the answer

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Main image: Justice Minister Helen McEntee at Tara Street Fire Station in Dublin the launch of a campaign to highlight the dangers of using illegal fireworks. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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Breaches COVID-19 Breaches Coronavirus Galway Helen McEntee Justice MInister Helen McEntee Pat Kenny

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