Gemma O'Doherty and John Waters refused permission to challenge Covid-19 laws

Gemma O'Doherty and John Waters refused permission to challenge Covid-19 laws
John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty. Photo: Sam Boal/

The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge by John Waters and Gemma O'Doherty to laws introduced by the State due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In judicial review proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, the journalists had sought to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation, which they say are unconstitutional and flawed, struck down.

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

Ruling on a preliminary issue - whether they were entitled to leave or permission of the court to bring their case to a full hearing - Mr Justice Charles Meenan today dismissed their action.

The judge said that the their claims were not arguable and the court could not grant them permission to have their challenge determined at a full hearing of the High Court.

The judge said the case should not have been brought by way of judicial review and should have been taken by way of plenary hearing which would have involved the hearing of oral evidence.

The decision was delivered electronically. However during the course of the hearing the applicants indicated that they would appeal to the Court of Appeal if they were not granted leave.

During the hearing of the application, dozens of gardaí were stationed around the Four Courts to ensure that social distancing regulations for court hearings, where limited persons can attend court, were adhered to. Dozens of supporters of the journalists had attended around the complex when the matter was listed.

The applicants had objected to this, and argued that the public had a right to be present in the court during the hearing.

That argument was rejected by the court, which said that as the proceedings were being covered by the media, the hearing was being held in public.

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.

Ms O'Doherty and Mr 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 also aimed at striking down temporary restriction regulations brought due to Covid-19 under the 1947 Health Act.

They claimed 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.

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