Gardai is preparing cases for the Director of Public Prosecutions in connection with investigations into alleged mask-wearing disregard and social distancing guidelines in the town of Rathkeale.
Gardai said they had encountered large gatherings in the city in recent days.
This follows the sharing of videos on social media of Christmas parties at home, which, according to informed sources, have taken place in Rathkeale in recent days.
One of the videos would show a crowded party in full swing at a house in the west town of Limerick, the source confirmed.
Another video, which has reportedly been recorded in Rathkeale in recent days, shows a group of sweaty topless men kissing in a house with Christmas decorations.
In response to a question from this journalist, a spokesman for garda confirmed that “cases are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions following incidents that Gardaí encountered in Rathkeale during the Christmas period involving gatherings of large groups in private establishments and on public roads in the city “.
Responding to a question about the videos circulating online, the garda spokesperson said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on statements made by third parties or documents provided by third parties. ”
“An Garda Síochána is committed to acting in a proportionate manner and working with the community to achieve compliance,” they added.
“The COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to call on all citizens to comply with public health guidelines and regulations,” the spokesperson said.
While some locals complained that Rathkeale had been unfairly singled out, others complained that some visitors to the town flouted the rules, attending house parties and breaking the rules about wearing the mask and social distancing.
Residents have also expressed concern over the potential spread of Covid-19 in the city with more than 1,000 members of the itinerant community arriving in Rathkeale in recent days from the UK and beyond.
Each year, the city’s population doubles to around 3,000, as visitors return to visit relatives, attend weddings, baptisms and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
With a mutant coronavirus first discovered in the UK and now found in Ireland, residents have also expressed concern that some visitors to the city – who have passed through or directly from Britain – could spread the new variant of the virus which would be 70% more transmissible.
Niall Collins, local of Fianna Fáil TD, who contacted Gardai about the videos circulating online, said he believed “there needs to be a greater garda presence” in Rathkeale now.
“I asked that more garda resources be devoted to the city. The videos going around are very alarming and the local community is very worried and upset and feels forgotten and left behind, ”said MP Collins.
Meanwhile, Martin Collins, co-director of passenger rights group Pavee Point, criticized anyone who has traveled to Rathkeale from overseas, during the pandemic.
Martin Collins said that “everyone has absolutely (right) to worry about Rathkeale, and reiterated that anyone, including members of the traveling community, who are considering visiting Rathkeale, should” stay put. At home and not to go.
Figures released by the Center for Health Protection and Surveillance from December 8 to 21 show that the region of Adare-Rathkeale, a population of over 27,000, which extends far beyond the city of Rathkeale, and other towns and villages in western Limerick, is above the national average. to 353.7 per 100,000 population, with 98 cases in total.
Other parts of Limerick are above the national average as well, including Newcastle West and City East.
Public Health Mid West communications specialist Fintan Walsh tweeted that between Tuesday and Friday “there was an increase of 240 cases of COVID-19 in Limerick”.
Limerick’s 14-day incidence rate was “334.5 per 100,000 after 652 cases recorded in the past two weeks … we have yet to see the impact of the Christmas celebrations,” added Mr. Walsh.
A spokesman for the garda said that “the Ministry of Health is the ministry responsible for the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
They explained that the temporary restrictions and regulations under the 1947 Health Act “provide for ‘travel restrictions’ and provide a long list of ‘reasonable excuses’.”
“These regulations provide for the organization of outdoor events under certain circumstances and the provision of business, including food and alcoholic beverages. The function of An Garda Síochána is to verify that businesses are open as required by regulations. Once a business is legitimately open, the conduct of the business is in accordance with public health guidelines. “
Gardai said wearing face masks and social distancing was a “personal social responsibility” and “not criminal regulation.”
“A Garda Síochána can only apply penal regulations, not directives,” the spokesperson said.
Gardai has “no function to monitor compliance” with international travel restrictions and guidelines, however, Gardai “has, and will continue to adopt, a graduated police response based on its tradition of policing by consent,” they said. they declared.
“It saw Garda members engage, explain, encourage and, as a last resort, apply.”