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High Court rejects legal challenge by Gemma O'Doherty and John Waters to Covid-19 laws

The pair had claimed the emergency Covid-19 legislation passed by the Oireachtas is unconstitutional.

O'Doherty and Waters outside the Four Courts last week.
O'Doherty and Waters outside the Four Courts last week.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated May 13th 2020, 11:17 AM

THE HIGH COURT has dismissed a legal challenge by John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty against laws introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The High Court issued the decision this morning. 

In judicial review proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, the two applicants sought to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation relating to the virus, which they say are unconstitutional and flawed, quashed by a judge of the High Court.

They also wanted the court to make a declaration that the legislation challenged was unconstitutional.

Today, Mr Justice Charles Meenan decided that O’Doherty and Waters could not bring a full judicial review case. 

In his judgement, he said: “In making their case for leave the applicants, who have no medical or scientific qualifications or expertise, relied upon their own unsubstantiated views, gave speeches, engaged in empty rhetoric and sought to draw an historic parallel with Nazi Germany – a parallel which is both absurd and offensive.”

“Unsubstantiated opinions, speeches, empty rhetoric and a bogus historical parallel are not a substitute for facts,” the judge said. 

The State, and lawyers acting for the Dáil, Seanad and the Ceann Comhairle who were notice parties to the proceedings, had argued during a two-day leaving hearing that permission should not be granted.

In their action O’Doherty and Waters, who represented themselves, challenged legislation including the 2020 Health Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, the 2020 Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act Covid-19 Act, The 1947 Health Act (Affected Areas) Order.

Their proceedings were aimed at striking down temporary restriction regulations brought due to Covid-19 under the 1947 Health Act.

They had claimed that the laws, and the manner in which they were enacted, are repugnant to several articles of the constitution including rights to travel, bodily integrity and the family.

On this, the judge said that he was “satisfied that the applicants have established no arguable case against the Oireachtas. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the case which they seek to make is unstateable”. 

The two-day hearing, as well as earlier hearings of the application, saw a large number of gardaí around the Four Courts complex to ensure that social distancing regulations, which including limiting the number of persons that can attend court hearings, were maintained.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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