The Easter Bank Holiday weekend - which starts today - normally marks a time that Mayo sees a massive influx of visitors to the county. However, due to the Covid-19 crisis and travel restrictions, fears have been expressed this week that the county could see an increase of people travelling to Mayo to use holiday homes.
Mayo County Council announced yesterday that they were closing the public car parks at all beaches around the county saying: "Mayo County Council have taken the decision to close access to public car parks at all beaches across the county, also at Croagh Patrick and Westport Skate Park for the foreseeable future. The decision was made following consultation with An Garda Siochana
A Spokesperson for Mayo County Council has confirmed that “Current Government guidelines in place are clear that all citizens should not be travelling further than 2km from their home except for essential purposes. With the good weather and Easter weekend approaching we have taken the decision to implement these closures to beach car parks to make it clear that people outside the immediate 2km area should not visit public beaches at this time.”
Fianna Fáil Achill based councillor, Paul McNamara, announced on his Facebook Page on Wednesday evening that as a deterrent to people, that access to beaches in Achill and Mulranny will be restricted.
He said in his post: "We are coming into Easter Weekend which is usually a busy time for Achill, this year however is different. It is important we do everything we can to stop the spread of Covid-19, this involves us following all government protocols surrounding social distancing.
"It is vital everyone stays at home and avoids visiting holiday homes, as this puts everyone in the local community at risk, especially the older generation. As and from Thursday, all public parking surrounding beaches in Achill and Mulranny will be closed.
"This is purely to protect the members of our community. This time will pass and we will all enjoy the beautiful beaches and scenery Achill has to offer once again."
Westport Parish Priest Fr Charlie McDonnell also announced this week that Croagh Patrick is closed to pilgrims; on a Facebook post he said: "We are living in difficult and different times. People are adapting to changes and trying to create new ways of doing things, including worship.
"This however should not include anything that contravenes the emergency instructions issued by the State. To this end, in my capacity as Co-ordinator of the pilgrimage element of Croagh Patrick and custodian of the Oratory, under no circumstances should people who live more than 2k from Croagh Patrick climb any section of it on pilgrimage at this time and particularly over the Easter Weekend.
"We would encourage people instead to light a candle and stay in their homes. We need to act responsibly now and continue to do so. The Croagh Patrick car park has been closed until further notice and people are asked not to climb. This statement is issued in relation to pilgrimage and religious purposes. Other statements may be made on this matter by the appropriate authorities."
Laws were signed into being earlier this week that grant gardaí a number of powers to enforce restrictions on public movement due to Covid-19 and include, where a person who refuses to comply with the instruction of a member of An Garda Siochána who is seeking to impose social distancing rules - this person can be deemed guilty of an offence and may be subject to a fine of up to €1,500 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.