The Department of Health has now admitted that emergency legislation restricting movement to help contain the coronavirus does not apply to day visitors from Northern Ireland or outside the State.

The department claimed yesterday there was no anomaly in the legislation, but this evening accepted that people visiting the State - but not staying overnight - are not covered by the regulations.

This effectively means that, for example, people from a town like Belcoo in Co Fermanagh can move about freely in the Republic while those living 500 metres away in Blacklion, Co Cavan cannot.

The Department of Health statement also confirms An Garda Síochána's position that the restrictions on movement cannot be applied to people coming into the State on a day trip from Northern Ireland.

Visitors from outside the State can therefore travel here to the beaches, to shop, to socialise or see friends or relatives even though they may be more than 2km from their homes.

Garda headquarters has advised senior officers all over the country of this legal position and directions have been issued to gardaí in border counties not to arrest anyone from Northern Ireland for breaches of the Covid-19 regulations.

Garda Headquarters has, however, insisted there is a wide range of other legislation available to gardaí.

Fianna Fáil Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue has written to the Taoiseach and Minister for Health asking that they immediately amend the new regulations to ensure they apply to everyone, even if they live outside the Republic of Ireland.