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Tight security for Waters and O'Doherty challenge of Covid laws

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Legal case: Gemma O’Doherty outside the Four Courts after a High Court action yesterday. Picture: Collins

Legal case: Gemma O’Doherty outside the Four Courts after a High Court action yesterday. Picture: Collins

CollinsPhotoAgency

Legal case: Gemma O’Doherty outside the Four Courts after a High Court action yesterday. Picture: Collins

Tight security surrounded the Four Courts complex yesterday as judicial review proceedings by journalists John Waters and Gemma O'Doherty were mentioned.

Around 40 people had gathered outside the court where the activists sought permission to bring a challenge against laws introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In judicial review proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, they sought to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation quashed.

During the hearings both journalists repeated claims made at a previous hearing about public access to the courts, and that only a limited number of people were allowed in.

This, it was claimed, was in breach of the constitutional requirement that justice be administered in public.

Mr Waters added that the fact the media were present in the courtroom was not sufficient.

He claimed that reporting about previous hearings lacked coverage of the real issues and was wrongly disparaging of himself and Ms O'Doherty.

But Mr Justice Charles Meenan said that he was satisfied the matter was being held in public, and in accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution.

While restrictions were in place, he said that members of the media were present in court and could report on the proceedings.

Mr Justice Meenan fixed the hearing of Ms O'Doherty and Mr Waters's application for permission to bring the challenge for next Tuesday.

The State, represented by Patrick McCann SC, said that it is opposing the application for leave, and that the claims are not arguable.

Counsel said the action has been given "due priority" particularly by the Department of Health in challenging times.

Counsel said the State hopes to furnish the applicants with its sworn statement outlining why leave should not be granted, by this Friday, or by Monday at the latest.

Mr Waters said the case was "one of the most important in our history", and repeated concerns about any attempt to delay the hearing of the action.

During the hearing Ms O'Doherty said that she believed her and Mr Waters' claims are arguable and the court should have already granted the applicants leave.

But Mr Justice Meenan declined to grant leave, stating that it was up to the applicants to prove to the court that the threshold for granting permission has been crossed.

Irish Independent