The Courts Service has said it is “disappointed and appalled” after around 100 people gathered in close proximity to one another in the Round Hall of Dublin’s Four Courts while an adjournment hearing over the Covid-19 laws was taking place today.
They had been admitted through the court’s airport-style security system and were there supporting a case by John Waters and Gemma O'Doherty against laws to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
They claim the laws are flawed and unconstitutional.
The Courts Service today issued a statement condemning the large gathering, adding that those involved put their wellbeing, and the health of Gardai, court staff, and court users at risk.
“We are disappointed and appalled that people chose, or organised, today to attend in large numbers, despite not being required to be there - and thus endangered themselves, Gardai, court staff, and court users to infection,” they said.
“Everyday the numbers in court are managed before any sitting starts. At this time of great public peril and threat to national health, we implore the public to be sensible and not gather in numbers in courthouses.
"Regulations allow attendance where necessary at court sittings - specifically to fulfil a legal obligation to attend court, as being a permissible reason to travel outside the 2 km current norm.
“Safe spaces need to be maintained for those who are summoned to attend court or who need to work there.”
They added that individuals attending court buildings are urged to maintain social distancing guidelines by public notices throughout court buildings.
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy refused an application by the Mr Waters and Ms O'Doherty to let some or all of the people gathered in the Round Hall into the courtroom so that the hearing met the constitutional requirement that justice be administered in public.
She said the case was being heard in public and was being reported on by the media.
The judge said that not everyone could fit into a courtroom, and wondered if a larger than capacity group wished to attend a hearing, “should the court be moved to the National Convention Centre."
Most of the crowd remained outside in the Round Hall where capacity had been severely reduced because of ongoing restoration works.
In their proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, Mr Waters and Ms O'Doherty seek to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation declared null and void by a judge of the High Court.
Their proceedings are also aimed at striking down temporary restriction regulations brought due to Covid-19 under the 1947 Health Act.
Last week, the court directed their application for permission to bring the challenge be heard on notice to the State parties.
The matter was listed for mention before Ms Justice Murphy on Tuesday.
Gerard Meehan Bl, for the State, told the court it will oppose the application for leave to bring the challenge.
He asked for a two week adjournment to allow for a response to be prepared to what is a "quite substantial" challenge.
While the State has been working on its response things were taking longer to get done, particularly when dealing with people working in the Department of Health. The Dail, the Seanad and the Ceann Comhairle would have to be added to the proceedings as notice parties, he said.
Mr Waters told the court that the State parties were attempting to "filibuster", "procrastinate", and delay a very important matter.
Ms O'Doherty said what was happening regarding the lock down was "outrageous".
She said people were being held under mass house arrest, or fear being interrogated by the Gardai if they leave their homes.
People should be allowed to go about their business and normal life must be allowed to resume, she said.
The vast majority of people are unaffected by Covid-19, which was "no threat to life", she said.
She claimed that the Irish people should be allowed to go outside and "build up a herd immunity."
Expert medical evidence supporting her claims will be presented to the court as part of the case, she said.
Ms Justice Murphy told Ms O'Doherty that the court was not considering what were substantial arguments in the action, but was making directions with a view to getting the application heard.
The Judge said that the leave hearing should take place in two weeks time.
She also adjourned the matter for a week, when it is to be mentioned before the court to see how the parties are getting on.
After the case, a large number of people, some waving the national flag, gathered in a close group outside the building where they were addressed by Ms O'Doherty and Mr Waters.