'It keeps me safe and it keeps other people safe': People of Cork welcome new face mask rules

'It keeps me safe and it keeps other people safe': People of Cork welcome new face mask rules

Regulations to enforce the compulsory wearing of face coverings on public transport came into effect yesterday, following an announcement by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Friday. 

Drivers can request a passenger to wear a face covering and can refuse entry on to public transport or request them to leave if they are not doing so. 

Under new rules, Gardaí can be called to enforce the regulations if someone fails to wear a face covering. 

However, Gardaí have stated that they will continue to adopt a "graduated policing response" with regards to their new powers. 

"In circumstances where a non-compliant passenger, without reasonable excuse, fails to accept the refusal or comply with a 'relevant person’s' request, members of An Garda Síochána may be called to assist. 

"An Garda Síochána will continue its graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent. 

"This has seen Gardaí engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce," Gardaí said. 

Passengers arriving at Kent Station in Cork from an Iarnród Eireann Inter-City train. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Passengers arriving at Kent Station in Cork from an Iarnród Eireann Inter-City train. Picture: Denis Minihane.

"Where potential breaches of the Public Health Regulations are identified, and where a person does not come into compliance with the regulations, a file will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to how to proceed," they continued. 

Circumstances where it is an exception to wear a face covering include those who cannot put one on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, those who need to communicate with another person who has difficulties communicating and those who need to remove the face covering to take medication. 

In a statement, Bus Éireann welcomed the new legislation. 

"Bus Éireann, Ireland’s national bus company, warmly welcomes the Government’s move to legislate the requirement to wear a face covering on public transport, with significant penalties for non-compliance other than for those exempted in law," they said. 

The wearing of face coverings has been mandatory on Bus Éireann services since June 29 and Bus Éireann say their Terms and Conditions of Carriage have been amended accordingly. 

"Across our network, experience is that compliance rates among passengers have ranged from 60-90 per cent and we expect this to increase with the legislation now active.

A passenger wearing a face mask on a Bus Éireann bus in Cork city. Picture: Denis Minihane.
A passenger wearing a face mask on a Bus Éireann bus in Cork city. Picture: Denis Minihane.

"Bus Éireann has today issued guidance to frontline employees who will inform, advise and encourage passengers to comply with the new law and have the ability to report and escalate any issues of non-compliance to their control centre,” Bus Éireann added. 

However, National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said bus drivers would not be the ones enforcing the legislation. 

"It's not our role to do it. 

"A bus driver's job is to drive the bus, not to police the laws of the land," he told RTÉ. 

The representative body for private bus and coach operators, the Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC), said their members are "disappointed" the Government did not engage with the sector.

"Collectively, private bus and coach operators carry 70 million passengers every year, right across the country, through our scheduled services, coach tourism, school transport and private hire so if you are aiming to ensure public health compliance having our sector at the table for decisions such as this would be important," said Chairman of the CTTC, John Halpenny.

Mr Halpenny said private bus and coach operators have "no clarity" regarding legal obligations or potential exposure.

In Cork, The Echo took to Parnell Bus Station and Kent Station to ask people their opinion of the new legislation. 

Here’s what they had to say:

Mojola Ojediran - Cork City

Mojola Ojediran. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Mojola Ojediran. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Mojola Ojediran, living in the City, welcomed the decision to make the wearing of face coverings compulsory on public transport.

"I think it’s a good idea. It’s good protection for everybody," she said.

Mojola said before the announcement came, she was already wearing face coverings when on busses and trains.

"Over the weekend I had to take the bus.

"Someone coughed behind me so I was happy I had my face mask on."

Allysson Fernandes - Youghal

Allysson Fernandes. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Allysson Fernandes. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Allysson Fernandes, originally from Brazil but now living in Youghal, said he agrees with the decision to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory on public transport.

"It keeps yourself safe and everyone else around you," he told The Echo.

On the train this morning, Allyson observed a high level of compliance.

"90% of people were wearing masks. It’s just a shame about the 10% who don’t care."

Jack Waite - Midleton

Jack Waite. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Jack Waite. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Jack Waite, living in Midleton, said that whilst he finds face coverings somewhat uncomfortable, he is happy to comply and wear one when on public transport.

"I suppose it’s sensible. I mean it’s not convenient but sure nothing is very convenient at the moment!"

Speaking about whether he would like to see face coverings mandatory in public places, such as shops, Jack said: 

"I think it should be left up to business owners whether or not they impose them."

Martin O'Callaghan - Station Manager at Parnell Place Bus Station

Martin O'Callaghan. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Martin O'Callaghan. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Martin O'Callaghan, Station Manager at Parnell Place Bus Station, said most people have been compliant in wearing face coverings on busses so far. 

"It is legislation now and Gardaí will be doing spot checks.

"It’s about keeping everyone safe. 

"You can imagine, inside in a close space we’re all in close proximity, we have to wear face coverings," he said. 

"Inside the bus, it’s like a petri dish for the virus."

"If we’re out in the open air and social distancing there’s no need for masks but in close proximity, we have to wear masks."

Eugene Dingivan - Fermoy

Eugene Dingivan. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Eugene Dingivan. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Eugene Dingivan from Fermoy says he is "all for" the wearing of face coverings on public transport. 

"It keeps me safe and it keeps the other people safe," he told The Echo

Eugene encouraged everyone to carry a face covering wherever they go in case social distancing is difficult in some places. 

"If you have the mask in the pocket, if you’re not happy then all you have to do is stick it on," he said.

Sarah Keohane - Ballyvolane

Sarah Keohane. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Sarah Keohane. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Sarah Keohane from Ballyvolane says she agrees with Taoiseach Micheál Martin's decision to impose the wearing of face coverings on public transport.

"It's no harm. They’re doing it in a lot of other countries," she said.

"It’s better than going back into lockdown," Sarah added.

However, Sarah says she doesn’t believe it is yet necessary to impose the wearing of face coverings in other public places, such as shops just yet.

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