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Garda powers should be extended to include the policing of face coverings at outdoor demonstrations – Carroll MacNeill

20th October 2020 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

The wearing of face coverings at large outdoor gatherings, including organised protests and demonstrations, should be made mandatory, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill believes that the powers granted to An Garda Síochána to police the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport should be extended to include policing at large outdoor gatherings of people.

“Over the past number of weeks, we have seen gatherings of large groups across Dublin city. These gatherings have taken the form of organised protests and marches, as well as unofficial gatherings of people.

“At the majority of these events, many of those in attendance do not wear face coverings. It is near impossible in such situations to maintain social distancing. It is therefore concerning for the general public to see large groups of people gather in such ways, and I know many people who have expressed their worry and concern upon seeing or encountering these groups.

“I am calling on Minister McEntee to consider extending the powers granted to An Garda Síochána under Statutory Instrument 296 of 2020 which mandates that mandatory face coverings are to be worn in certain premises and businesses by all persons who do not have a reasonable excuse.

“The Gardaí should have the discretionary power to police the wearing of face coverings in two specific situations: 1) organised protests or marches that have permission from An Garda Síochána to take place, and 2) large gatherings of people that appear to An Garda Síochána to have been organised, such as unofficial gatherings outside courthouses and so on, which are clearly organised and waiting for a specific person or event. Many of those attending such events have not worn face coverings and have coincided with anti-mask commentary on social media.

“Such powers must be underpinned by penal provisions, with failure to comply resulting in an on-the-spot monetary fine.

“This is already happening in countries across Europe. For example, in Luxembourg, people who do not wear a face covering in situations where they are not able to observe a two-metre distance in public spaces are subject to a €145 fine. In addition, all pedestrians in public areas in Paris must wear face masks.” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.


International comparisons of policing of face coverings:

• In Luxembourg, mask wearing is compulsory in situations where a person cannot abide by the two-metre social distancing requirement. People who do not comply are subject to fines of €145.
• In France, as of 28 August, all pedestrians must wear face coverings in all public areas in Paris. Many French cities and towns have also made it compulsory to wear coverings outdoors in busy areas.
• In Belgium, the wearing of face masks is compulsory in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private space accessible to the public.
• In Spain, face masks are mandatory in all public spaces, as they are in Greece and Hong Kong.

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