Louth Labour TD Ged Nash has reiterated his call from last April for the government to introduce regulations on travel that would apply to non-residents of the State.
Deputy Nash said: “Despite months of effort to co-ordinate a cross-border approach to managing Covid-19 there has still not been an agreed system to ensure that only essential travel is happening across the border.
"I am conscious of the strong community links on either side of our invisible border, and that there will continue to be a need for essential travel north and south. Closing the border is not an option, but clamping down on non-essential travel is.
“Contrary to what Minister Ryan implied this morning on radio, our Covid-19 regulations as currently drafted do not apply to non-residents who travel across the border from Northern Ireland.
"If someone from Northern Ireland is stopped 5km from the border without a valid explanation as to why they are travelling, Gardaí have no power to prosecute or fine them.
"The regulations as drafted don't ban travel, but ban you from leaving your place of residence in the State without a reasonable excuse.
“Last April I wrote to the then Minister for Health asking that public health regulations would apply to all visitors to the State.
"I did not get a response at the time, but the same problem still exists.
"present there is no regulation in place to restrict cross-border travel for non-essential reasons leaving the Gardaí powerless to act without the force of legislation.
“The Labour Party has made clear our view that we need a national aggressive suppression strategy (NASS) for Covid-19 with the aim of eradicating transmission of the virus in the community.
“As our Party Leader Alan Kelly said, in the absence of an agreed all-island strategy we will also need to put checkpoints 5km from the border to identify why people are travelling and ensure non-essential journeys are reduced. We know we can’t check every single route, but the public message will be clear that you shouldn’t be outside 5km of your home unless you have an essential reason.
“Residents in the Republic have strict travel restrictions in place, but there aren’t similar rules applying to non-residents. Checkpoints near the border should be given the power to enforce our laws.
“The Minister should act now to ensure that all of the restrictions and penalties that apply to the people of Louth and across the Republic apply to anyone from the north who might be thinking of a day-trip south.
“This is in the interests of everyone’s health.”