Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly brought forward proposals to curb on-street drinking this morning. People have been gathering in town and city centres to drink outdoors in recent weeks, despite strict Level 5 Covid-19 regulations. Cafes and pubs serving ‘takeaway’ drinks have become a focal point for large gatherings of revellers, as reported by Nova
Matters came to a head last weekend when social media was awash with video footage of large crowds of people, hundreds strong, in Dublin and Cork city centres.
Some publicans, whose premises did not sell food prior to lockdown and who have, therefore, had to shutter their pubs since March, have called for an end to the sale of takeway drinks from other licensed premises. The issuing being that the ‘takeaway’ drinks are not being taken away at all.
The government was expected, however, to stop short of halting the trade in takeaway pints but to make it an offence for two or more people to gather outdoors where at least one of them is drinking alcohol. That’ll wreck yer buzz. Punishable by a fine of €80, the new regulations were expected to be an addition to those already in place preventing the consumption of alcohol within 100 metres of licensed premises. Drinking near a pub will get you a €300 fine. Now that’ll really wreck yer buzz.
Is the law as it stands being enforced, however? And who was going to enforce these latest mooted regulations? The gardai have powers to fine those who won’t comply and disperse but does An Garda Siochána have the manpower to police every part of our towns and cities in order to prevent a reoccurence of last weekend’s shenanigans?
Nova.ie has learned that although new regulations with an €80 fine were drafted with the assistance of the Attorney General, when the proposal came to Cabinet this morning, some Fine Gael and Green Party ministers were not on board with it. The initial idea for a cessation of the sale of takeaway drinks is understood to have come from the Department of the Taoiseach. This was watered down after strong objections to stopping the trade in takeaway pints from within the Government. Now the fines for outdoor drinking have been buried too. It’s expected that the Gardaí will be asked to more strictly enforce the legislation already in place.
We’re a little over halfway through the six-week Level 5 lockdown period but new coronavirus case figures are rising rather than falling. Assistant Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn criticised what he called a “selfish minority” of people who are breaking public health regulations by gathering in large numbers to drink and socialise.