The latest report from the Policing Authority (PA) on the performance of an Garda Síochána during the pandemic has praised the force’s handling of domestic abuse, while also raising questions about the response to public order problems in Dublin over the June bank holiday weekend.
The chair of the authority, Bob Collins (pictured), said the process of easing COVID-19 restrictions was “filled with complications” for the force.
“The prospect of new, or rather old, freedoms increases expectations. Possibilities are imagined. And reality, constrained by circumstance, can disappoint,” he said, adding that these issues would have a real impact on how the work of policing was perceived.
Enforcement activity down
The report said that the level of garda enforcement activity had been falling in line with the easing of restrictions, and the policing focus was shifting to managing the reopening of society.
There were only 67 occasions in June where powers were used or fines were issued under COVID-19 regulations. This compared with 80 in May, and 218 in April.
The authority said 813 fines had been issued since its last report, which covered the period up to 9 May. Most of these were issued in the remaining weeks of May, and were linked to international travel, the non-wearing of face coverings, and the organisation of events.
The report said just over half of fines issued during the pandemic remain unpaid.
Since the last PA report, there have been 144 other enforcement actions taken by gardaí, with 129 linked to breaches of international travel rules.
Dublin businesses concerned
The authority said it had questioned the Garda Commissioner and his senior team on how the force plans for, responds to and learns from public order incidents, such as those that occurred in Dublin in early June.
“Through its engagement with stakeholders, the authority heard that increased engagement with the business community and better planning by the key actors could reduce the potential for public order incidents,” the report said.
The PA said that a number of organisations representing businesses had expressed concern about people’s perception of how safe the capital city was, and how this could deter them from coming into town.
The report quoted one business person who said that images of gardaí wearing public order policing equipment was “damaging for business, tourism, investment and the confidence and sense of safety of people to come in and enjoy the city”.
On domestic abuse, the authority said the response from organisations working in the area continued to be “overwhelmingly positive”.
The report said that a “structural change” seemed to have taken place in the approach of the policing service to vulnerable individuals, and to those who support them.