Empty streets and beaches: positive feedback from gardaí in Cork on compliance

Empty streets and beaches: positive feedback from gardaí in Cork on compliance
Saturday night on St Patrick's Street night while Mayfield Community Policing were on patrol. Source: Garda Síochána - Cork, Kerry & Limerick - Southern Region Facebook

Gardaí say there has been a very positive response from the public in Cork to the new public health measures introduced by the Government on Friday night.

As part of the measures, people can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons including to go to work if they are an essential worker. The measures prohibit gatherings of any kind.

A Garda patrols the almost deserted car park of the Riverview Shopping Centre on Saturday. 
A Garda patrols the almost deserted car park of the Riverview Shopping Centre on Saturday. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said around 2,500 gardaí were on duty across Ireland on Saturday, engaging in a mix of bike, foot, and vehicle patrols to ensure compliance with the restrictions in what he described as “one of the biggest ever mobilisations of the force”.

“We are obviously now well prepared for the next two weeks. We’ve put in place a huge operation involving really probably one of the biggest mobilisations of the organisation that we’ll have seen,” said Mr Harris.

“Very much we’re focused upon engaging with the public, explaining to the public what the health regulations mean but also then encouraging them to comply.”

The commissioner said the measures have been very well received to date.

“What we have observed is that the vast, vast majority of our citizens are compliant, whenever we speak to them they understand what happened and they observe the recommendations that have been suggested to us all by the chief medical officer, so so far so good,” he said.

Gardaí are due to receive new coronavirus-related enforcement powers shortly that would enable them to issue fines for breaches of social distancing regulations.

“The regulations which we are to receive very shortly will give us power to affect and intervene where we see people deliberately contravening the regulations,” said Mr Harris.

“Obviously, we will deal with these matters in a graduated response. We wish to inform people and persuade them to behave properly but if they don’t then we do have powers available to resolve this. Ultimately, we can make arrest if people won’t be compliant and that can lead to prosecutions.”

Mr Harris also acknowledged organised criminals would seek to exploit the coronavirus crisis for their own ends but insisted gardaí would remain focused on their key functions around preventing and detecting crime.

He also warned people to beware of scams related to Covid-19, highlighting adverts for testing kits and “snake oil cures”.

“All of these things are nonsense and they are just there to swindle you out of money.”

Garda Lee Donnelly and Det. John O'Donovan, Youghal Gardai on duty at the Youghal beach on Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Garda Lee Donnelly and Det. John O'Donovan, Youghal Gardai on duty at the Youghal beach on Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In Cork, gardaí were visible across the city and county at the weekend.

Gardaí on patrol said Fountainstown Beach, which had been particularly busy in recent days, was “blissfully empty” on Saturday, while on Saturday night, St Patrick’s St was unusually void of people, with gardaí saying people were heeding the message to stay home and stay safe.

A Garda spokesperson said overall, there was positive feedback from gardaí in terms of Covid-19 compliance levels.

St Patrick's Street, Cork with very few people out. Pic; Larry Cummins
St Patrick's Street, Cork with very few people out. Pic; Larry Cummins

Some concerns had been raised on social media at the weekend around people gathering in parts of the city, although these related to Friday night.

In a post on social media on Saturday, Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher said he received numerous concerns about youths gathering and congregating in areas in Ballincollig, before the restrictions came into effect.

He pleaded with parents to ensure their children are not out. “This is unacceptable, it has to stop,” he said.

“It’s not the children’s fault in my opinion, it’s the parents fault. What is wrong with ye? Are ye not getting the message. You are putting peoples’ lives at risk by allowing this.”

College Corinthians also highlighted antisocial behaviour on its grounds on Friday night, with two containers set alight there.

In a tweet on its Twitter account, the club said it hoped those involved would come to their senses.

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