President signs Bill allowing COVID-19 restriction fines

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has signed a Bill into law that allows Garda to impose graduated fines for breaches of COVID-19 restrictions.

President Michael D Higgins signed the Health (Amendment) Bill 2020 into law this afternoon, which amends the Health Act 1947 and expands the penalties that may be applied when offences are broken.

The fines proposed by the new Bill include a possible 500 on-the-spot fine for failure to wear a mask on public transport or in shops, or for those who travel beyond the prescribed 5km limit during Level 5 lockdown restrictions.

Fines of 1,000 can be issued to those who throw house parties or have any kind of social gathering during Level 5 restrictions. There can also be one months prison time imposed on offenders, or both imprisonment and a fine.

The fine can be increased at the discretion of the court if aggravating factors, such as a large number of event attendees, are found.

Second-time offenders who throw social gatherings can incur a fine of 1,500, three months imprisonment or both a fine and prison. Those who offend three times can be fined 2,500, face six months in jail, or face both a fine and imprisonment.

Additionally, any individual who refuses to leave a party or gathering upon the request of Garda can also be fined 1,000.

Garda are not, however, allowed to enter a persons home without a warrant. Instead, Garda will only be permitted to attend the main entrance of a home which they are investigating.

People will still be compelled to provide identifying information to Garda who ask for it, such as the name of the owner of a residence. Failure to provide this information can lead to a 1,000 fine, one months imprisonment or both.

In general, even prior to this Bill being signed into law, members of the public interacting with Garda are required to provide their name and address if asked by an officer, and failure to comply with this can lead to being arrested.