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Gardai issue St Patrick’s Day warning to ‘avoid large gatherings and house parties’

For the second year in a row, there will be no St Patrick’s Day parades in Laois or Ireland.

12 months on, the Covid-19 pandemic is more or less at the same stage as last year – with level 5 lockdown restrictions in place for the majority of us.

And ahead of Ireland’s national day of celebration, Gardai are urging people to avoid attending ‘large gatherings or house parties’.

To date in 2021, they say they have issued over 2,100 fines to people for organising or attending a house party.

They said: “Despite constant and consistent public health advice, An Garda Síochána continues to find people gathering in large groups at social occasions and at house parties.

“Such events put those attending, and everyone they meet afterwards, at risk of catching COVID-19.

“As of March 12 2021, An Garda Síochána had issued 429 €500 fines for organising a house party and 1,677 €150 fines for attending a house party.”

Gardai say they will have more than 2,500 officers on duty across the country on St Patrick’s Day and they will be engaged in a range of activities.

They said: “On St Patrick’s Day, at any one time, more than 2,500 Gardaí will be on duty across the country. They will be engaged in a wide-range of activity to support public health measures.

“This includes high visibility patrolling at public amenities; conducting checkpoints focused on non-essential travel and people exercising outside 5km of their home; road safety activity; managing any large gatherings that may occur, and providing support for the vulnerable including victims of domestic abuse.”

There are also a number of protests planned for Dublin city on St Patrick’s Day – and Gardai are urging people not to attend.

They said: “Multiple protest events are being planned on social media by disparate groups in different locations in Dublin city centre, which will require a significant Garda policing operation.

“An Garda Síochána is advising the public to refrain from any non-essential journeys to the city centre on the day as restrictions and cordons will be in place that may hinder easy movement around the city.

“In relation to these protest events, a policing plan is in place and An Garda Síochána will be deploying a large number of Garda personnel supported by national units such as the dog unit, the mounted unit, air support, and public order.

“In addition, checkpoints will be in place on arterial routes into the city and checks will be conducted on public transport over the course of St Patrick’s Day.

“In line with public health advice, in the first instance, An Garda Síochána would ask people not to organise or attend such protests.

“In all its engagement with the public, as has been the case during the pandemic, An Garda Síochána will continue to use its 4Es approach – engaging, explaining, and encouraging with enforcement a last resort.”

Speaking today, Laois based Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, Anne Marie McMahon said: “While it won’t be a normal St Patrick’s Day, we can still all enjoy the day safely at home.

“Staying home this St Patrick’s Day is the best thing people can do for their country and the best thing they can do for the people they know and love.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.