GARDAI COULD be handed additional powers to shut down pubs found to have breached Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions.
The newly-appointed Justice Minister Helen McEntee says while the public must exercise "personal responsibility" she is looking at "a number of options" to better assist the An Garda Síochána.
She told the Irish Mail On Sunday [via Extra]: "If you feel a business or venue is too crowded, or is not applying the guidelines properly — you should leave.
“Don’t stay there contributing to the problem. Personal responsibility has been vital to our success in suppressing the virus and moving through the roadmap.”
McEntee said that while Gardai will continue to police the situation in the same way it has done throughout the pandemic, she knows Ireland is “in this for the long haul” and further measures could be required.
"Gardai will continue to adopt a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent," the Justice Minister said.”
"This has seen Garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce."
"I am keeping the situation under close review and will consider additional powers for Gardai, if necessary," she added.
"I have asked my officials to consider whether there are any other powers that could assist Gardai with this important work, in order to keep people safe and stop the spread of this virus that has changed all our lives.
"My officials are looking at a number of options, in consultation with the Commissioner, to assist An Garda Síochána, if required."
The suggestion comes after Ireland’s R number crept up to just over one.
The R number refers to the average number of people someone with Covid-19 passes the coronavirus onto after contracting the illness.
A measure for how effectively a country is handling the pandemic, the aim is to keep the R number below one.
The rise comes nearly two weeks after Ireland further eased lockdown restrictions with pubs, restaurants and other venues allowed to reopen.
At present, pubs reopening must serve a substantial meal and can only reopen with a series of strict safety measures in place designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.
However, Gardai have found at least 26 pubs in breach of these regulations and other licensing laws.
The breaches have prompted fresh calls for gardai to be given powers to hand out more severe punishments to establishments found to be in breach of the rules.