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We have sleepwalked into a police state - it's vital we have right to question State's actions

Patricia Casey


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Clampdown: A Garda checkpoint on the M7 motorway due to Covid- 19 restrictions. Photo: Damien Eagers Photography

Clampdown: A Garda checkpoint on the M7 motorway due to Covid- 19 restrictions. Photo: Damien Eagers Photography

Clampdown: A Garda checkpoint on the M7 motorway due to Covid- 19 restrictions. Photo: Damien Eagers Photography

Since April 7, Ireland has become a police state. This happened without as much as a murmur of dissatisfaction, when the Oireachtas gave new powers to gardaí to stop and question people about their activities. They now have powers to enforce people to return to their homes if they are not complying with Government regulations regarding Covid-19, under threat of hefty fines and imprisonment. Similar measures are in force in Britain, where there are rumblings of overzealous officers abusing their power.

Our Garda Commissioner Drew Harris assures us that our police force will use its powers sparingly and in very specific circumstances. The problem is that the specific circumstances he alludes to are so mundane as to go unnoticed by most law-abiding citizens. It might be sitting on a park bench, walking too close to another person or jogging more than 2km past the legal limit. Presumably a couple sitting at a table in a public park observing the social distance and sipping water will also be found guilty of a crime.

I understand the purpose of such measures and they are laudable in their goal of protecting us from the deadly virus. As Leo Varadkar said in his powerful speech on St Patrick's Day, we are "restricting how we live our lives so that others may live". Inconveniencing the many to protect the few is a noble aspiration, but it also has to show evidence of benefit. It also leaves me more than a little uneasy.