The Department of Business has told some hardware stores they can reopen during the Covid-19 restrictions - contradicting the advice of the chief medical officer.
There has been confusion over whether hardware and garden shops can open after laws giving gardaí the power to enforce the pandemic restrictions classed them as 'essential retail outlets'. They had previously been told by the Government to close.
Hugh O'Donnell, the CEO of Topline, which supplies more than 160 independent hardware stores, said in an email to store managers this week that a senior Department of Business official had informed him "that the recently enacted legislation does indeed permit hardware stores and builders' merchants to reopen" while emphasising "the absolute necessity for anyone doing so to strictly enforce the health and safety protocols".
The department did not deny this was the advice being given to hardware outlets and referred to the regulations signed by Health Minister Simon Harris which classed them as essential retail outlets.
"The public should stay at home wherever possible but can access essential services, including to go to an essential retail outlet to get supplies for the essential upkeep and functioning of their homes," it said.
Mr O'Donnell said there had been "widespread confusion" over whether stores can open or not.
Several hardware stores contacted this week said they were open as normal, while others are operating a phone-in and delivery or collection service.
Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon said he had sought clarity from the Government, but "there remains confusion as to whether DIY, hardware and gardening centres are free to open, and if so what restrictions apply".
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said earlier this month he did not believe hardware and garden shops were essential retail outlets.