A CORK Fine Gael TD believes that emergency powers for Covid-19 restrictions, which are being extended until November, should be reviewed in September.
Cork North Central TD Colm Burke is a member of the Oireachtas health committee, which met yesterday to discuss the impact of Covid-19 powers on fundamental rights and mental health. The Seanad voted by 29 votes to three to extend the emergency powers until November.
The legislation is before the Dáil for extension as it is due to expire next month.
The legislation allows for fines relating to travel restrictions as well as prohibiting some events, including large gatherings, from taking place.
It also covers the provision of additional enforcement powers to the gardaí to address breaches of Covid-19 regulations by pubs, allowing gardaí to close a pub down temporarily where there is a refusal to comply.
Mr Burke said that, in relation to any regulation or extension of powers regarding Covid-19, “we have to be very careful as it goes through the democratic process and goes through scrutiny. If introducing something urgently, there must be sufficient time given to people.”
He pointed out that businesses and individuals can be affected if emergency measures are put in place speedily, without giving people time to prepare.
At the meeting of the committee, Cork man Liam Herrick spoke on the restrictions in his role as executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).
In a submission to the committee, the ICCL said there was a need for a review before the legislation was extended next month.
“Another renewal without review is an affront to democratic oversight and a missed opportunity to ensure interferences with our rights never go too far. To extend these extraordinary ministerial powers in this manner risks weakening the role of the Oireachtas. At a minimum, we must learn from the experience of the past 14 months and re-establish the primary law-making function of the Oireachtas on matters of fundamental rights.”
The ICCL added: “As the vaccine programme is being successfully rolled out and restrictions are lifted, we need to see an ultimate sunset clause introduced by which date Government is committing to take this legislation off the statute books.
“If the health situation requires further measures in the future, Government should start again with a new bill that takes into account all of the learning of the previous emergency period.”