State argues Covid measures do not legally restrict travel
Posted on 16th September 2020 at 22:30
Ryanair’s legal challenge to travel measures continues
The State has said that measures introduced by the Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic do not impose a legal restriction on travel in and out of the country.
The measures, the High Court heard on Wednesday, are merely advisory, have been reviewed regularly, and are not binding in nature.
The State was responding to claims made by Ryanair that the measures, which the airline says amount to ‘international travel restrictions’, are unlawful and amount to a disproportionate interference in its and its passengers’ rights.
In its action against An Taoiseach, Ireland and the Attorney General the airline seeks various orders and declarations, including one setting aside the measures announced in late July.
The State respondents oppose the action and says that the measures announced are not mandatory but are advisory in nature.
They also claim that Ryanair has no legal basis to bring its challenge against the measures, that the courts cannot intervene with this advice and that Ryanair’s proceedings are moot or pointless.
On the second day of the action, the State, represented by Frank Callanan SC and Eoin McCullough SC, said that the airline’s description of the measures as “restrictions” was “a mischaracterisation” of what the State has done.
The airline’s claims that the measures amount to restrictions were “cynical” Mr Callanan said.
It was accepted that as part of efforts to combat the pandemic persons travelling into Ireland must fill out a form known as a Passenger Locator Form. Failure to comply with this obligation is an offence.
With the exception of regulations brought in earlier this year under the 1947 Health Act, the Government has not adopted any binding health measures regulating international travel as part of the response to the Covid-19 situation.
Information was made public by the Department of Foreign Affairs – so that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves – which does not have the force of law, it was further submitted.
In its submissions to the court, Aer Lingus, which is a notice party to the proceedings and represented by Francis Kieran BL, outlined its opposition to the measures. It supports Ryanair’s action.
It was Aer Lingus’s case that separate from Covid-19, the measures have had a serious and detrimental effect on its business and the Irish aviation in general.
Ryanair, represented by Martin Hayden SC, appearing with Eoin O Shea BL, does not accept the State’s argument that the measures are advisory and do not restrict people’s freedoms.
Ryanair is challenging measures announced last July including that persons not travel outside the State save for essential purposes.
It is also challenging the requirement that persons returning to the State from countries not on so-called Green List to restrict their movements and self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
Ryanair claims the restrictions are also unconstitutional and breach various Health Acts, the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The case, before Mr Justice Garrett Simons, continues.
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