Journalists tell High Court coronavirus laws ‘unconstitutional’

John Waters, Gemma O’Doherty challenge regulations introduced in response to pandemic

Journalists John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty have started a High Court action challenging laws introduced by the State in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In judicial review proceedings against the State and the Minister for Health, Mr Waters and Ms O’Doherty are seeking to have various pieces of recently enacted legislation declared null and void by a judge of the High Court.

This includes the 2020 Health Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, the 2020 Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act and the 1947 Health Act (Affected Areas) Order 2020. Their proceedings are aimed at striking down temporary restrictions introduced by the Government.

Ms O’Doherty and Mr Waters represented themselves in court on Wednesday as they applied for permission to bring their challenge. The matter, which was heard on an ex-parte basis, where only one side was represented in court, was mentioned before Mr Justice Mark Sanfey.


Mr Waters told the court that the legislation was “unconstitutional”, “improperly enacted” and “very flawed”.

He said the challenge was brought on grounds including that the laws were brought in by a caretaker Government and approved by a Dáil while the number of TDs present for votes took was limited. He said he was also concerned that the legislation was enacted by the outgoing rather than incoming Seanad.

The journalists told the court that they had concerns about the powers the new laws gave to gardaí and the effect that the laws, the lockdown and travel restrictions are having on people.

The judge, who said that the court was only concerned about the legality of the legislation challenged and not about any Government policy, directed that the application for permission to bring the challenge be made on notice to the State respondents. He adjourned the matter for further mention in a week.