Waters & O’Doherty Bring Appeal After Having Initial Case Rubbished

L. to R. - Gemma O'Doherty & John Waters

Former journalists John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty will appeal the High Court’s refusal to grant permission for them to challenge laws introduced by the State due to Covid-19.

The former journalists are to bring their case to the Court of Appeal. When making submissions on the issues of costs, both parties said they would appeal the court’s refusal to grant them leave to mount a legal challenge to the Court of Appeal.

State counsel says legal costs should be paid by applicants as proceedings were ‘contrary’ to public health. Counsel added the regulations challenged had been brought in to “protect life and to protect public health. The object of the action was contrary to that”.

Mr Waters, urging the court not to make a costs orders against him or Ms Doherty, said the case had not been taken over what he said was “a personal grievance”. The action had been taken in the public interest given the ‘draconian, unconstitutional and unprecedented nature of the laws’ challenged.

He also told the court that the consequences of the lockdown, which he said will be seen in the coming weeks and months, would result in the “destruction of our society”. Ms. Doherty added that the lockdown had resulted in the closure of 85% of Irish businesses and a huge increase in the numbers of unemployed.

Mr Justice Meenan said they had not provided the court with any expert evidence or facts to support their view that the laws challenged by the applicants were disproportionate or unconstitutional.

The applicants, he said, who have “no medical or scientific qualifications or expertise relied on their own unsubstantiated views, gave speeches, engaged in empty rhetoric and sought to draw parallels to Nazi Germany which is both absurd and offensive.”

In judicial review proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, the former journalists sought to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation, which they claimed were unconstitutional and flawed, quashed by a judge of the High Court.

Refusing to allow the case go to a full hearing, Mr Justice Meenan ruled that the applicant’s 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 that while the laws have interfered with everyone’s lives he did not accept the applicant’s claim that the legislation breached various articles of the Constitution concerning the family and social policy rights and the right to freedom of movement.

Mr Justice Meenan also dismissed the claims against the manner in which the laws were voted on and passed by the houses of the Oireachtas. To do so would amount to a clear breach of the separation of powers, he added.