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Shoppers could face €100 fine for no mask as workers in fear of rows with customers

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Tara Buckley suggested fines

Tara Buckley suggested fines

Tara Buckley suggested fines

A spot fine of around €100 could be imposed on customers who refuse to wear a face mask in shops .

The suggestion was made by Tara Buckley, director-general of RGDATA, representing 4,000 family and other retailers, after Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced regulations are being drawn to make face coverings in shops and shopping centres mandatory to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Concerns are now growing about how the measure will be enforced and who will be responsible for ensuring the law is obeyed amid fears it could lead to potential violence.

Penalty

"We expect the vast majority of people will wear a mask when shopping in line with the expert advice," Ms Buckley said.

"If a person refuses to wear a mask and has no certified reason for not doing so then we think there should be a penalty - something along the lines of the UK model may work, with on-the-spot fines of €100."

However she stressed "this will have to be enforced by the gardai or some other representatives of the State".

Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) head Vincent Jennings also said it was essential representatives of retailers are consulted before the regulations are finalised.

"The last thing people who are working themselves to the bone want is to be dealing with a confrontation or otherwise," he added.

"If one customer brings it to attention of a member of staff that another customer is not wearing a mask, that has the potential for confrontation.

"There must be discussion on the regulations."

This was also echoed by John Douglas, of Mandate trade union, who said "enforcement cannot be left to shop assistants".

Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon said: "When it comes to enforcement, it is crucial that it does not fall to retail staff to ensure compliance.

"With incidents of violence and abuse directed at retail staff unfortunately a regular occurrence, it is important that enforcement is left to the authorities. Retail staff should not be exposed to the potential disputes and discord that might arise."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health, which is drawing up the regulations, said it is "strongly recommended that people wear face coverings in shops but this is not a legal requirement at present".

"Enforcement issues for wearing of face covering in shops are being considered," she added. "It's important to acknowledge the huge numbers of people who are already wearing face coverings on public transport to protect themselves and others.

Refuses

"This new recommendation is also being put in place to protect everyone, including the most vulnerable people in our society, and enforcement is always a last resort."

A garda spokesman said the Department of Health is the lead agency for Covid-19 related regulations and public health.

"In supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines and regulations, An Garda Siochana has and will continue to adopt, a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent.

"This has seen garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce."

"Where potential breaches of the public health regulations are identified... a file is submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to how to proceed."