An Garda Síochána has confirmed that COVID-19 lockdown restrictions do not apply to people on day trips from Northern Ireland.

The Irish police service told its senior officers that powers of enforcement cannot be used on Northern Irish people and that they cannot arrest anyone from Northern Ireland who is breaching COVID-19 regulations. 

There is reportedly a loophole in the emergency legislation signed by Minister for Health Simon Harris that neglects to reference visitors who live outside the state. 

The regulations were introduced to restrict people's movement and prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

However, a senior Garda officer stationed near the Northern Irish border noticed that the law didn't specifically apply to Northern Irish residents and sought clarification from Garda headquarters in Dublin. Gardaí have since confirmed that its police officers cannot enforce regulations on Northern Irish visitors. 

Current COVID-19 restrictions apply to people "whose place of residence is located within a relevant geographical location" and Garda headquarters recognized that Northern Ireland was not a relevant location where Irish law can apply.

Gardaí also said that the "place of residence" referenced in the regulations means a person's home. 

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This means that restrictions that confine Irish citizens to within two-kilometers of their own home do not apply to Northern Irish citizens. 

Northern Irish day-trippers can go shopping, go for walks and go to the beach in the Republic of Ireland with impunity thanks to the loophole.

A senior Garda officer told RTÉ News that "under no circumstances does a member [of the Gardaí] have the legal authority to arrest a person not ordinarily resident in this jurisdiction for a breach of the Health Act 1947." 

The officer described the situation as "less than ideal." 

However, if a person from Northern Ireland decides to travel to a holiday home in Ireland that then becomes their place of residence and the regulations apply to them. 

Gardaí also urged every Northern Irish visitor to continue to adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines even if the law doesn't specifically apply to them. 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland additionally has the power to enforce lockdown restrictions Northern Ireland, meaning that they can stop day-trippers while they are still in Northern Ireland and fine them for breaching regulations. 

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