Ryanair loses High Court action against Irish State’s travel restrictions

The High Court has ruled against Ryanair’s legal action challenging the State’s Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The airline had challenged the legality of travel advice published by the Irish Government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In its action, Ryanair claimed the travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus were “unlawful” and amounted to a disproportionate interference in the rights of the airline and its passengers.

The State disputed those claims.

On Friday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons ruled that the Government had “acted lawfully” in providing travel advice and public health advice in respect of the coronavirus pandemic on a non-statutory basis.

“The Government is entitled, in the exercise of the executive power, to provide such advice to the public,” the judgment read.

Ryanair claimed the restrictions were unconstitutional and it sought various orders and declarations, including an order setting aside the measures announced in late July.

These included that people should not travel outside the island of Ireland, except for essential purposes, and that everyone should holiday at home in 2020.

Ryanair maintained that what had been published by the Government went “well beyond mere travel advice” and represented the “imposition of restrictions on international travel”.

Judge Simons rejected the argument.

“Ryanair’s principal complaint is that, as a matter of domestic constitutional law, the Government, in publishing the impugned travel advice, exceeded its executive powers and trespassed upon the legislative power,” he said.

“These arguments have been rejected.”

Under the current public health guidelines, any person entering the Irish State is advised to restrict their movements for a period of 14 days.

This advice does not apply to travellers entering the Irish State from a small number of countries identified on the so-called “green list”.

In its ruling, the High Court said the information published on the Government’s official websites presented an “accurate portrayal” of the legal status of the travel advice and public health advice.

“The advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movements on entry to the State is just that: advice,” the ruling read.

“The Government merely requests that persons entering the State from a country not on the ‘green list’ restrict their movements for 14 days. As of August 2020, there had been no legal requirement to do so.”