A proposal to fine people gathering outdoors to drink alcohol has been withdrawn by the Government.

The three leaders of the Government parties along with the Minister of Health made a unanimous decision ahead of the Cabinet meeting not to proceed with the proposal to fine people who gather in outdoor areas to drink alcohol, a Government spokesperson said.

It is understood there followed what was termed "a constructive discussion" at Cabinet on the issue.

The proposal was in response to crowds gathering in the cities of Cork and Dublin last weekend.

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However, the task proved contentious from the off as there was strong resistance to any move that would have shut pubs selling takeaway drinks.

A proposal to fine people gathering in public to drink alcohol was drafted last night after consultations with the Attorney General.

However, there was understood to be some hesitation expressed by some Fine Gael and Green Party ministers.

While the discussion was later described as constructive, the focus will remain on enforcing existing laws.

Minister Stephen Donnelly said this would involve consultations with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to "see if there are issues around current enforcement".

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Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, he said the "core message" of Level 5 restrictions is to stay at home, unless you are going to work, or for education reasons.

"Going for pints is not one of those reasons," the minister said.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that it was important to bring the matter to Cabinet because people need to know that there will be enforcement of the laws.

He said gardaí reported a significant change last weekend in terms of the numbers drinking in public areas and that this requires a response.

Micheál Martin said this could have been as a result of complacency stemming from the Covid-19 trends last week.

He has said Covid-19 thrives where crowds gather and that has implications for the hospitality sector. 

He was responding to a question in the Dáil from Independent TD Sean Canney who said pubs need to know in advance what they need to do if they are to reopen.

Mr Martin said publicans do not know what is happening from day-to-day. 

Mr Canney said the best way for people to have a social drink is through the licenced premises that are there. 

The Taoiseach said that the scenes of large crowds gathering outside takeaway facilities was problematic when it comes to maintaining confidence in the sacrifices people have made. 

He said enforcement was important in existing laws and, he said, there would be further engagement with gardaí in relation to that.

He also said the Government would engage with publicans in advance of any decisions that it takes. 

Sinn Féin's David Cullinane has said it was appropriate for the Government to withdraw the proposals.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said the Government "can't make public policy up on the hoof" and on the basis of "one or two tweets" or incidences.

Mr Cullinane said that the issue is one for local authorities and the gardai to deal with under the by-laws, which allow for fines and other penalties.

He said that it is an issue of enforcement as well as appealing to people to do the right thing, adding that "of course people should not be congregating".