15 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Michael Fisher

Over the Easter weekend, a major Garda operation was in place on the N2 road at Moybridge, the main cross-border road between Monaghan and Aughnacloy. A Garda Sergeant on checkpoint duty on Holy Thursday told me: “In a couple of hours, we must have turned back over one hundred northern registered cars coming (from Co. Tyrone) to fill up with fuel in Monaghan.” It seems many of the drivers were not on essential journeys but had travelled from Dungannon and other areas to fill up their tanks with diesel, which is cheaper on this side of the border.

Research on average prices in March showed that a litre of diesel (€1.17) is 21c cheaper than the lowest priced equivalent (£1.20) in Northern Ireland (AA figures). Meanwhile milk tankers, lorries carrying food and other goods as well as a Bus Éireann express which seemed to have no passengers were waved through the checkpoint because they come under the essential journey category.

Gardaí also patrolled some of the minor roads in north Monaghan leading to the border as ‘Operation Fanacht’ went into full swing at noon on Wednesday last week, ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. The operation to ensure public compliance with the travel restrictions introduced as part of COVID-19 public health guidelines ran until Monday evening.
Gardaí say it was a graduated policing response based on their tradition of policing by consent. Garda members were instructed to engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce the guidelines.

Nationally, Gardaí arrested and detained people seven times over the weekend for failing to abide by the strict regulations introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. No-one has been charged with a criminal offence as Gardaí will consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions in every case before criminal proceedings are commenced.
Garda Headquarters said that every day during the operation there were 150 permanent checkpoints on major routes and 500 shorter and mobile checkpoints. At any one time, over 2,500 Gardaí were involved in checkpoints or high visibility patrolling.

Gardaí on patrol turned people back from tourist areas, beaches and beauty spots, as well as separating and moving people on in parks and public areas. A Garda statement revealed that in 144 cases where potential breaches of the regulations were suspected, such as house or street parties, gatherings beyond the family unit and non-essential travel, legislation covering public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs offences was used instead.

The Garda Commissioner acknowledged that there had been a very high level of compliance with the public health guidelines over the Easter weekend. “I want to thank the public for that. This has helped save lives. We now need people to continue that high level of compliance over the coming weeks. Working together we can reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

“Regrettably, there was a small minority who did not adhere to the guidelines or other legislation and Garda members had no option but to use the regulations or other legislation. This demonstrates the need for the regulations not only from an enforcement point of view, but also to support those who are willingly living their lives in line with the public health guidelines,” Drew Harris added.

Gardaí say Operation Fanacht also had the consequence of improving road safety and there were a number of detections across the weekend in areas such as speeding and drug/drink driving.

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