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Court rules Ryanair must pay costs of failed challenge against government's Covid travel measures

Aer Lingus, which was a notice party to the action, must pay its own legal costs, the Judge also directed.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

RYANAIR MUST PAY the legal costs of its failed High Court challenge against travel measures introduced by the government in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons ruled last October that the government had not exceeded its executive powers and trespassed upon the legislative power in relation to the measures.

In a follow up ruling regarding who should pay the legal costs of the action, estimated to be a low six figure sum, published today the judge ruled that there was no reason to depart from the normal rule that the successful party is entitled to its costs.

The judge said that the core issues he had to consider regarding who should pay the costs of the action included if the case raised issues of public interest that would justify the court departing from the normal rule of the successful party being entitled to its costs.

Other issues considered were if the government had changed the wording of its travel advice in response to the action, and if Ryanair could be said to be partially successful in the action, despite the fact the case was dismissed.

After receiving submissions from both sides, the Judge said the normal rule regarding legal costs “did not need to be adjusted”, by reference to the alleged public interest of the case.

The action he said was brought by “a well-resourced company, for whom costs are not a deterrent, in pursuit of its own commercial interest”.

Ryanair, he added, had brought the case for a full hearing notwithstanding a change in the wording of the government’s travel advice after the action was initiated.

While certain issues were decided against the State, the pursuit of those issues did not add materially to the length the proceedings took to hear, the Judge also held.

In the circumstances the judge said he was making a costs order in favour of the State respondents against Ryanair.

Aer Lingus, which was a notice party to the action, where it supported Ryanair, must pay its own legal costs, the Judge also directed.

Action

In its action, which took three days to hear, Ryanair claimed the measures amounted to a legal restriction on travel in and out of the country.

The State disputed those claims, and argued that the measures were merely advisory and not binding in nature.

In its action against An Taoiseach Ireland and the Attorney General, Ryanair sought various orders and declarations, including one setting aside the measures announced in late July.

This included the advice not to travel outside of Ireland save for essential purposes.

Ryanair also challenged the requirement for those returning to the state from countries not on the designated “green list” to restrict their movements and self-isolate for 14 days.

The airline claimed the restrictions were unconstitutional and breached various Health Acts, the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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It further claimed the government’s travel measures were outrageous, confusing and a detriment to both the public and its business.

The state argued Ryanair had no legal basis to bring its challenge against the measures, that the courts could not intervene with this advice, and that the airline’s proceedings were moot or pointless.

In his decision last October Mr Justice Simons found the government acted lawfully in providing travel advice and public health advice during the pandemic on a non-statutory basis.

The government was entitled, in the exercise of the executive power, to provide such advice to the public, he said.

As of August 2020, the information published on the government’s websites provided an “accurate portrayal” of the legal status of the travel advice and public health advice, the judgment continued.

“The advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movements on entry to the state is just that: advice,” the judge said.

He said Ryanair’s principal complaint was that, as a matter of domestic and constitutional law, the government in publishing the impugned travel advice exceeded its executive powers and trespassed upon the legislative power.

These arguments were rejected by the judge.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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