Inquiry ordered into detention of two women who would not quarantine at hotel
4th April 2021
The High Court has directed an inquiry into the detention of two mothers who refused to enter mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving into Dublin Airport following their return from a trip to Dubai.
On Easter Sunday Mr Justice Paul Burns directed the inquiry, under Article 40.4.2 of the constitution, the legality of the detention of friends Niamh Mulreany and Kirstie McGrath at Mountjoy woman’s prison.
The inquiry has been directed against the Governor of the prison, where the two are currently being held.
Both women were arrested and charged with breaching Section 38 of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021 by refusing to be detained in quarantine following their alleged refusal to go the designated hotel on Friday.
Those found guilty of the offence could face maximum sentence of one month in jail and or a fine of 2000 euros.
The court heard that they had travelled to the UAE, where they were due – but ultimately did not undergo -cosmetic procedures.
The court also heard that the trips and procedures were birthday presents funded by the women’s respective families and friends.
The pair were granted bail by the District Court on Saturday, on terms including that they remain in the hotel, and that they provide their own bond of €800, of which €500 must be lodged.
They must also provide an independent surety of €2000, €1800 must be lodged. They were also to reside at the designated hotel, surrender their passports and not leave the jurisdiction.
However, the High Court heard that neither woman was able to take up bail resulting in their detention at the prison.
At the High Court John Fitzgerald SC, appearing with Keith Spencer Bl, instructed by solicitor Michael French for the two women said that their detention is not lawful and have sought an inquiry aimed at securing their release.
Counsel said that the focus of the inquiry relates to his clients’ dissatisfaction with the bail hearing and the “draconian and disproportionate” conditions imposed on them by the district court.
Counsel said that the bail conditions were imposed on two persons with no previous convictions, where no inquiry into their means was made, and who had tested negative for Covid19 following three recent tests.
The state’s objections to bail arouse out of concerns over the covid19 pandemic and not for any of the usual grounds, counsel said.
The mandatory quarantine, which his clients were not aware of before they left for Dubai, amount to a form of preventative detention which he said has no lawful basis.
The amount sought to be lodged as part of the bail conditions were beyond his clients’ means, counsel said adding that Ireland “had abolished debtors’ prisons” some time ago.
Counsel said that the bail conditions were onerous and made no sense given they could not afford the cost of the hotel.
Out of concern for their children his clients had offered to isolate at their own homes, rather than at the hotel, but this offer was not accepted.
In reply to the judge counsel accepted that a constitutional challenge may be brought against the provisions in the Health Act under which his two clients were charged.
Counsel said Ms McGrath of St Anthony’s Road, Rialto Dublin 7 is the mother of children aged 10 and 8 years, and is the recipient of lone parents’ allowance.
Her trip to Dubai was a 30th birthday present funded by family and friends.
She was due to undergo a cosmetic medical procedure, which she believed would assist her in addressing some personal matters
Counsel said that Ms McGrath’s mother, who has taken leave from her job, has been looking after her two children. However, her mother must return to work in the coming days.
Mother of one Niamh Mulreany, who also celebrated her 25th birthday in March, also had her trip funded by a family member as a gift.
Ms Mulreany of Scarlett Row, Essex Street West, Dublin 2, who previously had breast enhancement surgery. had travelled with the intention of undergoing a corrective procedure carried out in Dubai.
She too did not go ahead with the procedure. She is also in receipt of the lone parent allowance.
Counsel said that when they attempted to return to Ireland from Dubai on March 31st last, they were informed that she must pay €1,850 in order to quarantine at a hotel upon arrival in Dublin.
They were not able to pay that sum, and was told in Dubai that if they did not pre-book the hotel and pay, she would be denied passage to Dublin.
They were not allowed board flights to Dublin for two days. Following presentations from a public representative and the Irish consulate UAE after they agreed to make deferred payments for the hotel.
They had also believed that their children could stay with them in the hotel. However, when they returned to Ireland, they were told they would have to pay the fee and that their children could not stay with them.
Arising out of that they refused to travel to the designated hotel because they could not afford the fee, and over concerns for their children.
Counsel said that neither were aware of the new quarantining requirements before they departed to Dubai.
The inquiry into their detention has been made returnable to later this afternoon.