Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has likened the prospect of people reporting their neighbours for breaching Covid-19 regulations in their home to the Stasi.
The Deputy was speaking on Wednesday as Dáil Éireann returned two weeks early from its summer recess and during the debate on the new Criminal Justice Bill which would see An Garda Siochana be handed new powers to enforce the law on licensed premises which are not compiling fully or in part to the Covid-19 regulations.
The Bill was brought before the Dáil on Wednesday by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. The new powers allow a Garda Superintendent to close premises for the remainder of the day if they refuse to comply with public-health guidelines.
Gardaí can also apply to the District Court for a three-day ‘emergency closure order’ if they suspect numerous breaches. A temporary closure order – ranging from a week to 30 days – may also be sought where businesses fail to act on a notice to comply with regulations.
Deputy Ó Murchú said he did not believe the powers would be necessary in most cases. “Most publicans and restaurateurs who are open are operating good businesses that they have run down through the years and they want to remain open. There is a necessity at times to deal with people who continually break the rules.
“I welcome that there are a number of stages in regard to the penal provisions of this legislation.”
However, he said there needed to be an acceptance that rules would be broken accidentally at times, especially within homes. He also said that legislators were dealing with an element of anger in society, down in part of a lack of clarity from government.
“We need to avoid as much of that as possible, accepting that rule breaches will happen from time to time and often times accidentally,” he said.
“We call on people to maintain the rules in regard to the number of people in their houses but from time to time visitors will call and householders might be in slight breach of the rules but they need to be as careful as possible.”
“What we do not need is neighbours reporting neighbours in an almost Stasi situation. Breaches that are utterly criminal need to be reported as quickly as possible.”
The Stasi was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic, described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies ever to have existed. It spied on the population, primarily through a vast network of citizens turned informants.