AT LEAST 170 people were fined for ignoring Covid guidelines and flocking to the Wicklow Mountains over the weekend.
The crackdown comes after Garda were granted new powers on Monday which allows them to issue on-the-spot fines to anyone refusing to follow lockdown restrictions; from Monday to Thursday, 37 fines had been issued nationwide.
But over the weekend, Gardaí confirmed they issued on-the-spot €100 fines to up to 170 people who broke the 5km travel rule and drove to the Wicklow Mountains.
Gardaí also issued warnings to a further 200 motorists in Wicklow who agreed to turn around and go home, avoiding a €100 fine.
Today Gardaí in the Wicklow Division issued over 70 Fixed Payment Notices and turned back over 200 vehicles after issuing a caution to the drivers.
The COVID-19 Pandemic remains a public health crisis.
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) January 17, 2021
Local Fine Gael Cllr Irene Winters appealed for people to remain in their homes and especially within their 5km, stating that Wicklow usually welcomed tourists with open arm but "not at the moment".
"Stay in your own area, break the transmission." Cllr Winters told The Irish Examiner. And that's what people need to do.
"Come back in the summer when there are no travel restrictions. In the meantime, Wicklow and everybody should be staying in their own 5km."
In Roscommon, near the popular walking spot Newcastle Woods, Gardaí turned away 70 vehicles found not to have a valid excuse for travelling, and 30 fines were issued to people whose cars were parked outside their 5km radius.
Under the new powers given to Gardaí, travelling without a reasonable excuse can lead to a €100 fine, while organising a party or social gathering at home carries a €500 penalty.
Refusing to wear a mask when asked can result in an €80 fine.