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Investigation underway to identify organisers of anti-Covid-19 restriction rally in Donegal

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Donegal’s 14-day Covid-19 incidence rate is now the highest in the country.

GARDAÍ HAVE SAID they are carrying out an investigation to identify the organisers of an anti-Covid-19 restriction demonstration in Co Donegal this afternoon. 

The demonstration took place in the Market Square area of Letterkenny at 2pm, just hours after the county had been upgraded to Level 3 of the government’s living with Covid-19 plan. 

Around one hundred people attended today’s rally which encouraged people to challenge the health regulations, according to local media. 

The Donegal Daily reports that the majority of those in attendance did not wear masks as they gathered in the square, addressed by a number of speakers.  

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, gardaí said they are not investigating breaches of public health regulations by those in attendance as social distancing, wearing of masks in a public area and other such guidelines are “non-penal regulations”.

An Garda Síochána said its investigation was being conducted under the Health Act, 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No 5) Regulations 2020 which came into effect on 19 September. 

Regulation 15 states: “A person shall not organise, or cause to be organised, a relevant event in a relevant county.” 

The expectations to this are if the event only takes place outdoors and if the person takes “all reasonable steps to ensure that the event is attended, or proposed to be attended by no more than 15 persons”.

“In supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines and regulations, An Garda Síochána has and will continue to adopt, a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent. This has seen gardaí engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce,” a garda spokesperson said. 

“The Covid-19 Pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to all citizens to demonstrate personal and social responsibility to comply with Public Health Guidelines and Regulations in order to continue to save lives.”

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Earlier this evening, a further 248 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland by the Department of Health – 37 of those in Donegal. 

Donegal recently overtook Dublin as the area with the highest rate of cases, with the county now at 148.2 cases per 100,000 people.

On Friday, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Dr Michael McBride, made a specific appeal to teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s in Co Donegal and Derry to reduce their social contacts.

The chief medical officers said they were concerned about the significant proportion of cases in young people in Donegal and Derry, and asked teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s in particular to reduce their social contacts.

Glynn said yesterday that Nphet fully understands that the restrictions may be challenging for the people of Donegal but that the recommendation was made to protect public health, and to prevent further worsening of the situation there.

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