Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle opposes indefinite extended Covid powers

Thomas Pringle opposes indefinite extended Covid powers

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said he supports public health measures in the fight against Covid, but does not support additional powers being extended to gardaí or unlimited powers given to the Government indefinitely.

Deputy Pringle said: “I would like to reiterate my support for public health measures and for the need for some emergency measures. At the beginning of the pandemic we didn’t know what was going to happen and what we were going to do.

“But I won’t just pander to the government because of public health concerns. I have had public health concerns for those working in meat packaging factories. I still have concerns for those in overcrowded and congregated settings, such as direct provision,” he said.

Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil on today during the debate on the Health and Criminal Justice (Covid-19) (Amd) Bill 2021.

The deputy said no one would dispute that these have been unprecedented times and that significant measures were required to protect public health and life early last year.

Deputy Pringle said: “We were asked to stay home in order to keep each other safe. I think everyone can agree that the level of compliance, fear and camaraderie during the first lockdown last March/April was extraordinary. We saw the amazing community spirit in our neighbourhoods as people looked out for isolated members of their communities, did shopping and chores for those who were cocooning and praised our health and other frontline workers.

“But now, 15 months later, people are disillusioned because of our rudderless government, the mixed messages, the unclear communications and the continuous government undermining internally,” he said.

The deputy said the Irish Council for Civil Liberties ICCL) has produced a strong, measured analysis of the renewal of emergency Covid-19 powers.

Deputy Pringle said: “The ICCL analysis asks for a meaningful and publicly demonstrated proportionality test; for better consultation with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; for pre-legislative scrutiny; for Oireachtas approval; to limit broad powers; for a regular review of powers extended to gardaí and ministers; and for a human rights impact assessment.”

He said: “I agree with the ICCL’s points that enforcing public-health measures should be based on education and advice. They pointed to behavioural science research that said positive reinforcement of messaging, targeted communication and provision of supports would ensure compliance at a higher rate than the threat of punishment.

“An example of this was the Garda hotline set up in Donegal for people to report others for breaching restrictions. The hotline was discontinued very soon after launching because it was never going to work. That is not how to motivate the public,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “I don’t agree with the extra powers being extended for the gardaí and I definitely don’t agree with unlimited powers being extended to the Government.”

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