Covid passports: Hospitality chief challenges Justice Minister Naomi Long claim that PSNI do not have primary responsibility for enforcing Covid rules
Justice Minister Naomi Long and a hospitality industry chief have made apparently clashing remarks about whether the PSNI carry primary responsibility for enforcing Covid rules in the run up to Christmas.
The issue has come to the fore with the imminent introduction of Covid passports to access Northern Ireland nightclubs, pubs or restaurants. The domestic passports or certificates will be introduced on 29 November and will be enforceable from 13 December.
Stormont Executive ministers are also increasingly talking of the need for the public to stick to Covid prevention measures, such as wearing masks, in order to prevent more extreme restrictions over the Christmas period.
But in light of increasing focus on the issues, Justice Minister Naomi Long has insisted that the PSNI do not carry primary responsibility for enforcing the Covid regulations.
“They have a responsibility to uphold the law,” she said today. “But they do not have the primary responsibility for enforcement of Covid regulations. They are one of a number of agencies that have responsibility for that.”
Asked by Good Morning Ulster who then does have primary responsibility, if not the PSNI, she responded: “Well there is no primary body. It is spread over a number of departments and agencies, for example councils have some responsibility in this, the Health and Safety Executive Agency have some responsibility in this and the police have some responsibility in this.”
She added: “Primarily it is for the owner of the premises to ask people to comply with the rules for entering the premises so if someone is going into a retail environment, it is important that that retail environment makes it clear that masks are required. The same is true if it is a hospitality environment. It is only where someone refuses to comply and creates difficulties when they are asked to leave that the police would be involved.”
But Colin Neill, CEO of Hospitality Ulster, appeared to reject her claim, saying his members would be depending on the police for enforcement, when necessary.
He said his sector has been taking responsibility for applying Covid regulations in their premises since the start of the pandemic. However he thinks that with Covid passports to become mandatory for hospitality next month things will change further.
His organisation is now offering conflict resolution training to their members’ staff as abuse levels are already “escalating” he said.
“We will play our part in asking people to comply [with Covid passports],” he told the Nolan Show today. “But enforcement will have to come down to the police if people are not complying.”
Asked if they do not carry primary responsibility for enforcement, a PSNI spokesperson did not give a direct answer.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland are currently working with colleagues in The Executive Office and other designated authorities to agree protocols with regards to enforcement of the Regulations regarding the COVID certification process,” they said.
“Responsibility for enforcement is for those bodies designated by the Northern Ireland Executive and that has previously included a range of agencies.”
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