Cabinet may increase fine for non-essential travel abroad to €2,000, says Martin

No significant economic reopening after March 5th, Taoiseach tells Dáil

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Cabinet will discuss increasing the fine for non-essential travel abroad from €500 to €2,000. He told the Dáil “there is a sense that €500 is not a sufficient disincentive to travel abroad. That will be increased”.

Mr Martin said: “The Government is considering increasing that [fine] to €2,000 to act as a significant deterrent to people travelling because all non-essential travelling should be avoided.”

The Taoiseach also said legislation would be introduced next week on mandatory quarantining but he stressed that there were “significant complex legal and personal liberty issues involved” amid repeated Opposition calls for mandatory quarantining of all arriving passengers to Irish airports.

He confirmed there will not be a significant reopening of the economy after March 5th.


Mr Martin said in the Dáil that there were still more than 1,000 people in hospital with Covid-19. “The numbers are still 25 per cent higher than the April peak,” he said.

The country had to “get the numbers down to very low levels and keep them there. And that will inform our approach to the post-March 5th period and there will not be a significant reopening of many sectors of our economy”.

Kite flying

Earlier there was trenchant Opposition criticism of the Government’s pandemic strategy during a debate on a Labour motion for an aggressive Covid-19 suppression plan.

Party leader Alan Kelly warned there would be a "lockdown four" without elimination of community transmission of the virus, while Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane accused Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of "kite flying" in comments about the possible reopening of the economy.

During the order of business Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith questioned the level of travel fines because people are "being fined €500, handing it over and still being allowed go on their holidays".

The Taoiseach told him that although the numbers travelling were low, about 60 per cent of passengers arriving in Ireland were returning holidaymakers and the Cabinet would consider increasing the fine to €2,000 as a significant deterrent.

March 5th has been set as the date when some Covid-19 restrictions may be lifted if the number of infections continue to fall. The possibility has been floated – including by the Tánaiste – that people could be allowed to meet friends or family outdoors, and that work on construction sites could resume. But education and a return to school are the priority for the Government.

Mr Martin told Independent TD Joan Collins that "we've 175 in intensive care so the pressure is still on our hospitals and we need to get that pressure down and . . . we're in favour of prolonged suppression of the virus".

Ms Collins said England and Scotland made a once-off payment of £500 (€570) to healthcare workers and in France, they received €1,500. She called for post-Covid leave for frontline workers to give them a chance to recover from fatigue and burnout after the double shifts they had done and sacrifices they had made.

Mr Martin said the Government “will respond to and recognise the extraordinary efforts that frontline healthcare workers have made”. He said “the precise timeframe obviously has to be considered”.

Opposition TDs sharply criticised Government leaks and Labour’s Brendan Howlin said “the mixed messaging is driving people bonkers”.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said Mr Varadkar’s comments about the possible reopening of the economy were “fantasy stuff” and called for the Taoiseach to allocate responsibility for travel to either the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Justice or the Minister for Foreign Affairs who all had roles in this.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times