On Thursday, the Dáil passed a law giving the Gardaí the power to visit licensed premises to ensure that they are complying with the existing regulations regarding the need to serve food, social distancing and others.
The Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid – 19) Bill 2020 was passed by 127 votes to 12. All of the main parties supported the legislation despite their alleged reservations, and the opposition was comprised of five left wing TDs and members of the Rural Independent Group.
Sinn Féin TDs, all basically reading the same rejigged script to my experienced eye, voted for the Bill despite having attempted in the media to convey the impression as they do that they opposed it as “draconian.” Like many on the left they can clearly not resist the chance to tell other people what to do, and without having to resort to the measures they might employ in other parts of the country.
Paul Donnelly the Dublin West Sinn Féin TD managed to keep a straight face while going on about the dangers to public health posed by those who do not comply with the restrictions. The same chap claimed €8,000 of taxpayers money to do up his constituency office during a period of the lockdown. Did that work involve any breaching of the restrictions?
It is actually a curious, although not particularly surprising, aspect of all of this that parties like Sinn Féin that would love to have the chance to be the bully rather than the bully’s labourer, revel in the strengthening of state powers. Besides enthusiastically and unquestioningly backing the virus restrictions, they favour putting the boot into anyone who does have the temerity to use their own capacity to evaluate them. Martin Kenny, their spokesperson on Justice, was to the fore in calling for the sacking of Barrister Una McGurk from the International Protection Appeals Tribunal for speaking at a rally in Dublin last month.
It was mostly left to TDs who opposed the Bill to inject any sense into the debate, or to ask pertinent questions of Minister McEntee. Carol Nolan the Laois Offaly TD described the proposals as “over the top and unnecessary,” and pointed out that they may end up causing “irreparable harm to personal freedoms and social cohesion.”
Nolan also highlighted the fact that Section 13 of the Act gives the Minister the power to “take such additional protective measures as are practicable.” So, all those “opposition” TDs who are comforting themselves with references to the “sunset clauses” inserted by the apparatchik who wrote their speech were in fact voting for a pig in a poke.
That point was also made by Denis Naughton who pointed out that the measures can in fact be extended beyond the two month period if the government so decides. Indeed in response to Naughton’s question, which seemed not to occur to any of the alleged opposition TDs who trooped into the Government lobby, McEntee said that she could extend them “for a month or whatever the period might be.” Which of course makes a nonsense of her own claim and that of Sinn Féin and others that this is all “temporary.”
In any event, proof that the approval of the Dáil for any measures deemed necessary in the Age of Madness is merely window dressing came as TDs were debating the latest round of new powers. Without any consultation whatsoever, Minister for Health Simon Donnelly signed into effect a new regulation requiring that pubs which serve food as well as alcohol must retain records of what each customer consumed for a period of 28 days.
Final word perhaps to Vintners Federation CEO Padraig Cribben: “This is crazy stuff.” Le mot juste.