Ryanair and State agree accelerated hearing of challenge to travel restrictions

‘Telescoped’ hearing to take place next month

The State, which opposes the action, says the measures are advisory, and not mandatory in nature, as alleged by Ryanair. Photograph: AFP via Getty

The State, which opposes the action, says the measures are advisory, and not mandatory in nature, as alleged by Ryanair. Photograph: AFP via Getty

 

Ryanair and the State have agreed to an accelerated hearing of the airline’s High Court challenge against the Government’s international travel restrictions.

In an action launched last week, Ryanair claims that the ‘restrictions’, arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, are unlawful, amount to a disproportionate interference of individual’s rights and are detrimental to its business.

In its action against An Taoiseach, Ireland and the Attorney General the airlines seeks and order setting aside the measures. Aer Lingus Ltd is a notice party to the action.

The State, which opposes the action, says the measures are advisory, and not mandatory in nature, as alleged by Ryanair. The State also claims that there is no basis for a legal challenge against the measures.

The High Court had directed last week that Ryanair make its application for permission to bring its challenge on notice to, or in the presence, of lawyers for the State.

That application was due to be heard next week. However, on Wednesday evening lawyers for the parties told Mr Justice Mark Sanfey that they had reached an agreement that will accelerate the process.

‘Telescoped’ hearing

Eoin O’Shea BL for Ryanair said it had been agreed that there would be what is known as a ‘telescoped’ hearing, where the application for leave and the full challenge itself would be heard at the same time.

The parties were seeking a hearing sometime in mid-September, and the case would take two days to hear, counsel said.

Frank Callanan SC for the State said the State respondents had consented to a telescoped hearing, and a timetable for the exchange of legal documents had also been agreed.

Counsel said it is his client’s case that the measures are “advisory” and cannot be challenged before the court, and that a common sense and practical view had been taken in regards to the hearing of the airline’s action.

Francis Kieran BL for Aer Lingus said that the measures challenged have “serious and significant implications” for his client. Aer Lingus was also agreeable to the matter being heard next month.

Mr Justice Sanfey vacated next week’s hearing of the leave application and adjourned the matter to a date in September, and provisionally fixed the 14th and 15th of September for the hearing of the action.

The judge expressed his hope that the case which he said raises important issues can be heard on the provisional dates.

Essential travel

In its action Ryanair is challenging measures, announced on July 21st last, including that persons not travel outside the Island of Ireland, save for essential purposes, and that everyone holiday at home in 2020.

It is also challenging the requirement for persons returning to the State from countries not on a designated green list to restrict their movement and self-isolate for a period of 14 days.

Ryanair claims the measures are mandatory in nature and have the same effect as regulations it says should have, but were not voted on or approved by the houses of the Oireachtas.

Ryanair claims the restrictions are unconstitutional and in breach of the 1970 and 2020 Health Acts, the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The State claims its Covid-19 travel advisory notice in relation to non-essential travel are necessary, proportionate and are transparent measures designed to deal with the global health emergency.