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Ryanair is 'mischaracterising' Ireland's travel measures by calling them 'restrictions', court told

The State was responding in court to claims made by Ryanair about the measures.

Image: Shutterstock/06photo

THE STATE SAYS that measures introduced by the Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic do not impose a legal restriction on travel in and out of the country.

The measures, the High Court heard today, are merely advisory, have been reviewed regularly, and are not binding in nature.

The State was responding to claims made by Ryanair that the measures, which the airline says amount to ‘international travel restrictions’, are unlawful and amount to a disproportionate interference of it and its passengers’ rights.

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

The State respondents oppose the action and say that the measures announced are not mandatory but are advisory in nature.

They also claim that Ryanair has no legal basis to bring its challenge against the measures, that the courts cannot intervene with this advice and that Ryanair’s proceedings are moot or pointless.

On the second day of the action, the State, represented by Frank Callanan SC and Eoin McCullough SC, said that the airline’s description of the measures as “restrictions” was “a mischaracterisation” of what the State has done.

The airline’s claims that the measures amount to restrictions were “cynical”, Callanan said.

It was accepted that as part of efforts to combat the pandemic persons travelling into Ireland must fill out a form known as a Passenger Locator Form. Failure to comply with this obligation is an offence.

With the exception of regulations brought in earlier this year under the 1947 Health Act, the government has not adopted any binding health measures regulating international travel as part of the response to the Covid-19 situation.

Information was put out by the Department of Foreign Affairs, so that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves, which does not have the force of law, it was further submitted.

In its submissions to the court Aer Lingus, which is a notice party to the proceedings and represented by Francis Kieran Bl, outlined its opposition to the measures, and supports Ryanair’s action.

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It was its case that separate from Covid19 the measures have had a serious and detrimental effect on its business and Irish aviation in general.

Ryanair, represented by Martin Hayden SC, appearing with Eoin O Shea Bl, does not accept the State’s argument that the measures are advisory and restrict people’s freedoms.

Ryanair is challenging measures announced last July including that persons not travel outside of Ireland save for essential purposes.

It is also challenging the requirement that persons returning to the State from countries not on the designated list, known as the Green List, restrict their movements and self-isolate for a period of 14 days.

Ryanair claims the restrictions are also unconstitutional and breach various Health Acts, the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The case before Mr Justice Garrett Simons continues.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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