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Women who returned from Dubai can leave Mountjoy Prison but must stay in quarantine hotel, High Court rules

The High Court noted that there was a waiver scheme for persons who cannot afford the cost of quarantine.

The women's solicitor says they may challenge the constitutionality of the law.
The women's solicitor says they may challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Apr 4th 2021, 6:04 PM

THE HIGH COURT has made orders allowing two women who refused to enter mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving into Dublin Airport after returning from Dubai to leave Mountjoy woman’s prison.

Mr Justice Paul Burns today amended bail conditions imposed on friends Niamh Mulreany and Kirstie McGrath, which will see them leave prison and continue to quarantine at a designated hotel.

The judge also declined the women’s application to be allowed quarantine at their respective homes instead of the hotel so they could be re-united with their children.

The judge said that in light of the public health situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the measures put in place to reduce new variations of the virus, they must quarantine at the hotel.

Both women were arrested and charged with breaching Section 38 of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021 by refusing to be detained in quarantine following their alleged refusal to go the designated hotel last Friday.

They were granted bail by the district court yesterday but were unable to satisfy the financial conditions imposed on them, resulting in their incarceration at Mountjoy women’s prison.

Following an application by their lawyers this morning the judge directed an inquiry, under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution, into the legality of their detention of at Mountjoy woman’s prison.

However, following discussions between lawyers for the parties that action has now been converted into a Constitutional challenge against laws requiring persons to enter mandatory quarantine on their arrival into Ireland from certain countries.

Lawyers for the DPP and the prison’s governor opposed the application and had argued that their detention was valid.

They also argued that while they were not unsympathetic to situations that the two women found themselves in , mandatory quarantine was introduced in the interest of the greater public good to help counter Covid-19.

The mandatory quarantine had been introduced by the state following advice from experts, the court heard.

The two women attended the hearing via video link from the prison.  

The court heard that they had travelled to the UAE, where they were due to, but ultimately did not, undergo cosmetic procedures.

The court also heard that the trips and procedures were birthday presents funded by the women’s respective families and friends.

The pair were granted bail by the District Court on Saturday, on terms including that they remain in the hotel, and that they provide their own bond of €800, of which €500 must be lodged.

They were also told to provide an independent surety of €2,000, €1,800 of which must be lodged. They were ordered to reside at the designated hotel, surrender their passports and not leave the jurisdiction.

However, the High Court heard that neither woman was able to take up bail resulting in their detention at the prison.

Following talks between the sides the state parties, represented by Kate Egan Bl and John Gallagher Bl, agreed that the financial conditions of their bail could be relaxed.

All that was issue was if the two could quarantine at their homes or at the designated hotel.

In his decision Mr Justice Burns agreed with the State that the two must quarantine at the hotel, given the requirements currently the presumption of constitutionality. 

He added that the two may not have to spent the 14 days at the hotel, given that there was an appeal mechanism included as part of the 2021 Act which they can avail of.

The judge also noted that there was also a waiver scheme in the Act for persons who cannot afford to pay the costs of quarantining in the hotel.

He warned them that any breach of the quarantine could see them back in the same position that they had found themselves in.

In their action counsel John Fitzgerald SC, appearing with Keith Spencer Bl, instructed by solicitor Michael French for the two women claimed that their detention was not lawful.

Counsel said the bail conditions imposed by the district court, given the circumstances were “draconian and disproportionate”.

The women have no previous convictions, and who had tested negative for Covid-19 following three recent tests, he added.

DUBAI WOMEN 2P8A0807 (1) The women arrived from Dubai on Friday. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Their mandatory quarantine, which his clients were not aware of before they left for Dubai, amounted to a form of preventative detention which there is no lawful basis.

Counsel said Ms McGrath of St Anthony’s Road, Rialto Dublin 8 is the mother of children aged 10 and 8 years, and is the recipient of lone parents’ allowance.

Her trip to Dubai was a 30th birthday present funded by family and friends.

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She was due to undergo a cosmetic medical procedure, which she believed would assist her in addressing some personal matters

Counsel said that Ms McGrath’s mother, who has taken leave from her job, has been looking after her two children. However, her mother must return to work in the coming days.

Mother of one Niamh Mulreany, who also celebrated her 25th birthday in March, also had her trip funded by a family member as a gift.

Ms Mulreany of Scarlett Row, Essex Street West, Dublin 2, who previously had breast enhancement surgery, had travelled with the intention of undergoing a corrective procedure carried out in Dubai.

She too did not go ahead with the procedure. She is also in receipt of the lone parent allowance.

When they attempted to return to Ireland from Dubai on 31 March they were informed that she must pay €1,850 in order to quarantine at a hotel upon arrival in Dublin.

They were not able to pay that sum, and was told in Dubai that if they did not pre-book the hotel and pay, she would be denied passage to Dublin.

They were not allowed board flights to Dublin for two days. Following presentations from a public representative and the Irish consulate UAE after they agreed to make deferred payments for the hotel.

They had also believed that their children could stay with them in the hotel.

However, when they returned to Ireland, they were told they would have to pay the fee and that their children could not stay with them.

Arising out of that they allegedly refused to go to the designated hotel because they could not afford the fee, and over concerns for their children.

In reply, Mr Gallagher for the Governor said that information about the mandatory quarantine were put in the public domain the day before the women travelled to Dubai on 24 March last.

In all the circumstances counsel said that both women were validly detained.

The matter will return before the court later this month. 

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Aodhan O Faolain

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