Government backtracks on plans to introduce fines for people who gather outside to drink alcohol

The Government has backtracked on plans to introduce fines for people who gather outside to drink alcohol.

A memo was brought to Cabinet on Tuesday by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly outlining new enforcement measures.

It came after videos that circulated on social media showing large crowds gathering on streets in Cork and Dublin at the weeend, prompted public outrage.

But the proposal to introduce fines was abandoned amid opposition within the Cabinet from the Green Party and Fine Gael. Taoiseach , who had strongly condemned the scenes at the weekend, said the Government would instead work with Gardai on enforcing existing measures.

He told the Dáil on Tuesday: “Due to the hard work of people and the sacrifice across the country, we’ve seen significant progress. And that’s significant for our hospitals. It’s also significant for keeping our schools open.

“That’s all been enabled by the restrictions we’ve brought it and it’s been enabled by the sacrifices of the people. They have sacrificed a lot.

“It’s juxtaposed with the scenes of last weekend and the previous week where large crowds were gathering outside take away facilities, it’s problematic in terms of the overall messaging and maintaining confidence in the sacrifices that people have made. We need to acknowledge that.

“And that’s why enforcement is important, of existing laws and we will have further engagement with the Gardai in relation to that. I think the key point is that issue needs to be highlighted.”

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said on Tuesday that fines were a knee-jerk reaction, and called for common sense.

She said: “If it’s going to be a business of issuing fines for people drinking pints on the street then what do we do about everyone who’s meeting up and drinking coffees?

“I think there needs to be a bit of common sense here. I think our better course of action, instead of taking out the big stick and talking about fines, is just to speak to people’s common sense.”

Mr Martin said he was “extremely concerned” by the scenes on the streets of people not adhering to social-distancing measures, adding that it puts the progress being made in the fight against coronavirus into “jeopardy”.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn branded those involved as a “selfish minority” who were putting the safety of others at risk.

The weekend drinking scenes came as Dr Glynn and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan are warning about a recent upturn in case numbers after recent progress in driving down infection rates.

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