There has been mixed reaction to the news that gardaí are to be given additional powers to impose fines on those who breach certain Level 5 restrictions.

People who break the rules can be issued with an on-the-spot fine of up to €500 under legislation to be passed in the coming days, the Cabinet has agreed.

The legislation will pave the way for proportionate fines for those who hold house parties, along with penalties for people who travel beyond the five-kilometre travel limit.

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has expressed concern about the introduction of fines, warning that it could cause divisiveness.

The organisation's Executive Director, Liam Herrick, said: "All the evidence is that fines will not be an effective measure.

"What it's likely to cause is more divisiveness, and you may have an uneven application of these fines … problems we don't really need to encounter at this point in our response".

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, said there should be consequences for those who breach restrictions.

The vast majority of the Irish public has been compliant, he said, but it "annoys them greatly when they see a small minority of people flagrantly breaching the guidelines".

He said: "I think the vast majority want to see there's a consequence for that, and want to see enforcement.

"The reckless behaviour of a minority can mean extended restrictions for everybody. A provision of certain fines is the right thing to do, but only as part of a mix of measures".

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At a glance: What does Level 5 mean?

On-the-spot fines for breaching Covid-19 restrictions have been in place in Northern Ireland for the last few months.

Over 1,400 such penalties, starting at £60, have been issued so far.

Researchers at NUI Galway have been examining if fines make a difference when it comes to adherence to restrictions.

They conducted a survey of behavioural responses to the pandemic, and found measures such as threats and fines consistently rated as the least likely way to encourage adherence.

Other experts have said on the spot penalties do have their place, but they should not be solely relied upon.

Professor Peter Lunn from the ESRI's Behavioural Research Unit said fines can provide a strong signal.

"The deterrence effect will be there, but it's likely to be quite small," he said.

"But they [fines] also supply a social signal about what’s acceptable and what isn't.

"So, provided they're not too heavy and are set at the right level, they can have an impact. But compared to voluntary compliance, that impact is likely to be quite small."