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Dublin women seek damages from the Irish State over Covid rules

Two Dublin women who were arrested during the Covid-19 lockdown are seeking damages against the state, and calling for certain parts of the pandemic legislation to be declared unconstitutional and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The actions have been brought before the High Court by Niamh Mulreany (26) and Kirstie McGrath (31), who were arrested at Dublin Airport on Good Friday in 2021 after refusing to submit themselves to mandatory hotel quarantine.

The women had been on holiday in Dubai for “landmark birthdays” in a trip paid for by family and friends. While they were abroad, the government implemented new Covid-19 quarantine rules, which required people coming to Ireland from countries such as the UAE to be quarantined in hotels for up to 2 weeks, regardless of their test results or if they had the virus.

Eventually Irish troops were enlisted to help oversee this policy.

While both women tested negative for Covid-19 upon their return, they were instructed to board a bus which would take them to the quarantine hotel. Both women refused, however, arguing that they could not afford the cost of staying in the hotel, which could cost almost €1,900 per person in total. They also argued that they had to get back to their children, as each woman was a lone parent whose children were staying with relatives during the holiday.

However, for their refusal the women were arrested and charged with breaking Section 38 of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021. They were sent to Mountjoy women’s prison, before being granted bail several days later. Bail was originally set at €1,800, but was later lowered to €500.

They were then transferred to another hotel where they stayed quarantined for a number of days.

If convicted, both individuals could be fined up to €2,000 and several months in prison.

However, represented by Micheál Ó Higgins SC, the women have hit back at the charges, seeking to have their prosecution halted. They’ve also called for the courts to declare that the offence of resisting being taken to a quarantine facility is unconstitutional.

The women’s counsel said that that the Minister for Health’s decision to designate certain states as requiring quarantine was unconstitutional, and went against the principle of law and the separation of powers.

The counsel argued that the decision should have been introduced by legislation through a statutory instrument, and not through a Ministerial order.

The case, which is before Justice Marguerite Bolger, remains ongoing.

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