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Building company launches High Court action against government's construction shutdown

It claims the private construction sector is being unfairly discriminated against.

Builders working at the National Children's Hospital in Dublin.
Builders working at the National Children's Hospital in Dublin.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

A BUILDING COMPANY has launched a High Court challenge against the government’s decision to freeze some construction work as part of its Covid-19 restrictions.

Blue Whisp, which is part of Paddy McKillen Jr-owned Oakmount Group, is taking the challenge against the government.

The company has claimed it is “unjustifiable discrimination” to prevent some construction work from taking place while other projects within the sector are exempt from restrictions.

It claims the private construction sector is being unfairly discriminated against.

Blue Whisp is building 48 apartments with four commercial units at a site in Mount Merrion in Dublin.

Work stopped at the site on 8 January when the Government prevented certain construction work from going ahead.

The application for a judicial review was brought forward by Rossa Fanning SC.

In court papers seen by the PA new agency, a company director of Blue Whisp accuses Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of acting unlawfully and outside his powers by not extending the exemption to other kinds of construction.

The company said it does not want to underestimate or downplay the threat of Covid-19 to the health and wellbeing of the population, and does not question the reliability of scientific evidence.

It said it also recognises the “incredibly difficult” policy decisions the government has to make, however it claims the construction regulations are “objectively unjustifiable and do not serve a genuine health objective”.

The company says there is no basis in the primary legislation for the minister to have distinguished between different kinds of construction work.

It says the continued restrictions on construction activities, and the failure to reinstate the exemption for construction works, were motivated by “irrelevant considerations”.

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The company claims that by acting in favour of certain types of projects and against other, Donnelly has acted outside the scope of his powers.

Under the current restrictions, the type of construction that is exempt includes work on social housing, hospitals sites, schools and transport infrastructure.

Blue Whisp claims the exemptions encompass more than 40% of the construction industry, and Donnelly is therefore “legally bound” to extend the exemption to the entire sector, particularly housing developments.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin confirmed last month that Level 5 restrictions will remain in place until April, and construction work would still be delayed.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan adjourned the matter until 12 March.

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