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7km tailback chaos caused by 132 garda checkpoints

Nurses among those late for work as gardaí quiz motorists

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Gardai conduct a Covid 19 checkpoint on the outbound N4 at the Celbridge junction

Gardai conduct a Covid 19 checkpoint on the outbound N4 at the Celbridge junction

Gardai conduct a Covid 19 checkpoint on the outbound N4 at the Celbridge junction

Massive tailbacks at garda checkpoints are a reality again as the country yesterday joined Dublin and Donegal in Level 3 lockdown to halt rising Covid numbers.

However, it is a fear of being stuck in a traffic jam, not fear of explaining yourself to a garda, that is most likely to have an effect on whether people travel or not.

From late on Tuesday, gardaí began setting up checkpoints at 132 locations around the country to police the movement of people who have been asked to avoid unnecessary journeys out of their counties.

On the N7 Naas Road, there were seven-kilometre tailbacks from Citywest to a checkpoint at Blackchurch early yesterday.

Similar traffic delays were reported on the N4 from the Lucan exit to a checkpoint at the Celbridge junction.

The garda checkpoints will be in place for the next three weeks.

The high volume of traffic on the roads this time compared with the lockdown in spring has meant massive delays for commuters.

There were reports from the N7 checkpoint that many nurses making their way to Naas Hospital were delayed because of Operation Fanacht.

Gardaí do not have the powers to enforce the Government guidelines this time, and say they are hoping that policing by consent will be enough to have an effect on the numbers of people driving.

Genuine

"The hope is that people will see that they are likely to meet checkpoints and delays and only travel if they need to," said one garda yesterday.

"Unfortunately, that has an effect for people making genuine journeys too," he conceded.

On the N7, a series of traffic cones filtered three lanes of traffic into one lane.

Gardaí waved trucks, vans, buses and obvious workers onward and filtered private cars into another lane, at the top of which a team of gardaí asked the drivers about the reasons for their travel.

"It's the only safe way to do it, and drivers need to be aware that it will be like this for three weeks," said one garda.

While there were very few drivers advised to turn back, gardaí did succeed in seizing vehicles which were not taxed or if the driver was an unaccompanied learner.

On the N4 at Celbridge, a similar system of filtering the traffic was in place.

At another Operation Fanacht checkpoint on the N81 road from Dublin to Blessington, gardaí were stopping traffic at Brittas.

"We've been here since 7am and I've already turned three motorists back," said one garda at 8.15am.

"They admitted their journeys were not essential and agreed to turn back when it was explained to them that the restrictions were being implemented to save lives and make the country safer.

"Today is about showing the public that we will have a presence on the road again.

"It's about making them think about their journeys," the garda explained.

"Most of the drivers are making legitimate journeys to work but we need to alert the others that they should not be out on the road and to stay home," said another garda.

People being stopped were polite and understood why they were being delayed.

Compliance

"An Garda Síochána's priority is keeping people safe. This will be a major policing operation across the country with high visibility of Garda members to support public health measures," Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said when he announced the recommencement of Operation Fanacht on Tuesday.

"An Garda Síochána is encouraging people not to travel out of their county unless it is for essential purposes. People using the roads are likely to face delays," he said.

"Since the start of the pandemic, An Garda Síochána has adopted a graduated policing approach based on its tradition of consent. We have seen compliance by the vast majority of the public with this approach.

"Independent surveys have also found significant public support for it. We will continue to police in this way."


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