People visiting Irish holiday homes ‘risking lives’

People trying to visit holiday homes and other beauty spots near the Irish border are risking lives, a local community worker has said.

On Thursday, Irish police established a checkpoint on both sides of the main Dublin to Belfast dual carriageway close to the boundary between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Significant traffic congestion was caused after the Dublin Government restricted travel to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Local community representative Damian McGenity, a part-time farmer and anti-Brexit campaigner, said: “This is not a time to be out travelling.

“I have elderly parents, my wife has elderly parents and we have small children.

“I understand how tough it is but we are trying to save lives, we are trying to save the lives of our loved ones and family members – people need to cop on.”

Dozens of Irish police coned off parts of the main dual carriageway which crosses the border, one of the country’s busiest roads.

Mr McGenity said there were holiday homes in Carlingford, a pretty seaside town in Co Louth framed by mountains and Carlingford Lough, and further down the Irish coastline in Bettystown.

He said it was the same story in Co Donegal in the North West, with people from Northern Ireland visiting second residences.

“People are having barbecues and it is crazy,” he said.

Garda commissioner Drew Harris has urged people already at their holiday homes to stay there rather than travel back to their main residences.

Mr McGenity noted differences in contact tracing between Northern Ireland and the Republic and said he had friends working at the main local hospital, Daisy Hill in Newry, Co Down.

Checkpoint at Carrickarnon, Co Louth
Checkpoint at Carrickarnon, Co Louth

He said: “They are having an extremely tough time getting personal protective equipment and protecting themselves and other patients.

“Here we have people travelling around.

“All they need to do is stay at home.

“Surely that is a simple ask rather than putting pressure on and risking their lives and the lives of their families.”

On Wednesday Irish police were granted powers to enforce Covid-19 rules around social distancing.

People have been urged to stay at home unless they need to buy food, medicine or attend medical appointments.

They are allowed to go out for exercise if they remain within 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) of home.

Exceptions have been made for essential workers and those caring for vulnerable people.