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Mother takes legal action against decision not to close schools in Northern Ireland

The Stormont Assembly is to discuss the issue of closing schools today.

Image: Niall Carson

A MOTHER IN Northern Ireland is legally challenging the decision not to close schools in the region amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. 

The mother’s daughter attends a primary school in Co Armagh, and has underlying health problems including severe asthma. The mother’s legal team said that the girl “is at a greater risk of harm should she contract the coronavirus”. 

Ireland announced that it would close all schools, universities, and cultural institutions until the 29 March, and that those who can work from home should. Last night, it was announced that pubs and clubs would also close until at least 29 March.

Phoenix Law, a firm of human rights lawyers with offices based in Belfast, Dublin and London, released a statement last night on behalf of the child’s mother:

“We have today put the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health, the Education Authority and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools on notice of our intention to apply for emergency judicial review of the current position with regards to the decision not to close schools across the jurisdiction. 

It is our client’s case that the current position is unlawful and contrary to the necessary protections afforded to all citizens under the human rights act. 

“For these reasons, we have been instructed to put the various public bodies on notice of our intention to apply for judicial review.”

The Stormont Assembly is to discuss the issue of closing schools today.

Sinn Féin is asking for the schools to be closed, as they are in Ireland, but the DUP is arguing in favour of the UK government’s approach to keep them open.

Darragh Mackin, solicitor at Phoenix Law who acts for the mother said:

“It is clear that the respective public bodies have each failed in their respective obligations to our client, and indeed all children, by continuing to require their attendance at school in circumstances in which they would be at an increased risk of contracting the condition.

There is no time for any further delay. The necessary policies and decisions all need to be taken in a manner that recognises the real and immediate risk. The wider international community has spoken. Their advice cannot and should not be ignored.

“It is a deplorable situation when a mother has to initiate urgent legal proceedings to ensure that her child, and indeed children across the jurisdiction, are afforded the necessary protections and safeguards required under law.”

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