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High Court dismisses challenge over Covid-19 laws

John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty were seeking to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation quashed.

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Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters arrive at the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters arrive at the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters arrive at the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

The High Court has refused permission to allow John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty to challenge the emergency laws introduced in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

In judicial review proceedings against the State and Health Minister Simon Harris, Mr Waters and Ms O’Doherty were seeking to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation quashed.

The legislation they wanted to challenge includes 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, and the 1947 Health Act (Affected Areas) Order.

On Wednesday, Justice Meenan ruled that the pair were not entitled to leave.

Ms O’Doherty tweeted that they will appeal against the ruling.

During the proceedings, Mr Waters and Ms O’Doherty questioned the accuracy of the amount of people infected by Covid-19 and the number of deaths as reported by the Department of Health.

They accused the Government of acting on “fraudulent science”, adding that the lockdown laws are “unconstitutional” as Government did not have the power to legislate.

They also claimed that the new powers breach ECHR laws.

Patrick McCann, senior counsel for the State, told the court that there was “complete absence of any facts” by the applicants to show that the Covid-19 measures were disproportionate.

In his judgment, Justice Meenan said that, while there is “no doubt” that the restrictions interfere with normal family life, they are not a breach of Article 41.

He added that the pair’s claims are not arguable and the court cannot grant them permission to have their legal challenge heard in full at the High Court.

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Supporters greet John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty outside the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

Supporters greet John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty outside the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

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Supporters greet John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty outside the High Court in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

The judge sad: “Unfortunately, in making their case for leave, the applicants, who have no medical or scientific expertise, relied upon their own unsubstantiated views, gave speeches, engaged in empty rhetoric and sought to draw an historic parallel with Nazi Germany – a parallel which is both absurd and offensive.

“Unsubstantiated opinions, speeches, empty rhetoric and a bogus historical parallel are not substitute for facts.

“In my view, the applicants do not have standing to challenge the amendments to the Mental Health Act.”

During the proceedings, there had been been a significant garda presence around the Four Courts as supporters of the pair gathered outside the building.

A number held placards and the tricolour, while many called for an end to the lockdown laws.

Road barriers were erected around the area to prevent supporters from accessing the court following fears over social distancing.

Mr Waters and Ms O’Doherty have often addressed supporters after each court hearing, with Ms O’Doherty clutching a copy of the Constitution of Ireland.

PA