The Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee TD, has today welcomed the seventh Report from the Policing Authority on the performance by An Garda Síochána of its policing role in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister McEntee said,
The publication of this seventh report comes at a critical point in Ireland’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Ireland is moving from a short-term emergency response approach to a medium-term approach to managing risk and repairing the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted on society. The Plan for Resilience and Recovery will help us to go about our daily lives as much as possible, while managing the behaviour of the virus.
An Garda Síochána have a critical role to play in supporting the public health measures designed to reduce risky behaviour. The Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers)(COVID-19) Act 2020, recently signed in to law by the President, has a very specific focus. It will provide additional enforcement powers in relation to bars and restaurants, as well as registered private clubs, which are flouting the law and not acting in compliance with the Covid-19 health regulations.
An Garda Síochána has taken extensive action in support of public health, since the outset of the pandemic. The graduated policing response adopted by Gardaí, where Garda members engage, educate, encourage and only as a last resort enforce relevant emergency regulations, has been welcomed and encouraged by the Policing Authority as the appropriate response. This approach will continue.
The Report of the Policing Authority notes the relatively low level of incidents since its last report to the Minister on 17 July 2020. The Report also explores the continuing good work of An Garda Síochána through Operation Faoiseamh and presents valuable insights from the Authority’s engagement with voluntary and statutory agencies working with vulnerable victims of domestic violence at this difficult time.
Minister McEntee continued,
I welcome and endorse the findings of the Policing Authority in their Report in relation to continued impact of Operation Faoiseamh. It is of great concern to us all that the incidences of recorded domestic abuse have been rising during the Pandemic. Operation Faoiseamh has had a real impact with the victims and represents a new multi-agency approach to engagement with a most vulnerable group of people. I would encourage anyone requiring urgent assistance or support, to please call 999 or 112, we are ‘STILL HERE’ to listen, to help and to protect.
The Minister concluded
I note the concerns expressed by the Policing Authority about the use of anti-spit hoods by An Garda Síochána. I welcome the fact that the Authority has submitted a detailed submission to An Garda Síochána for consideration as part of the force’s evaluation of the use and management of such hoods.
The use of anti-spit hoods has decreased since the early stages of the pandemic. Members of An Garda Síochána must feel safe as they carry out their duty to protect people in this unprecedented public health crisis and anti-spit hoods should only be used in extreme circumstances.