John William O'Sullivan

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The Burden of Proof in the Irish High Court Case Should Not Have Fallen on the Applicant

by John William O’Sullivan John Waters addresses supporters outside the Court On May 13th 2020, Mr Justice Charles Francis Meenan refused permission for John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty to challenge the emergency laws brought into effect by the Irish government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This judgement is enormously important for two reasons: first, it shows that some members of the Irish judiciary do not understand the gravity of what they are dealing with; and second, it shows that the Irish courts are placing the authority of a caretaker government over the citizens’ ability to assert their constitutionally-protected rights. We should carefully analyse these two trends, as they seem almost certain to arise in court-rooms across the Western world in the coming weeks and months. The separation of powers in constitutional republics is meant to ensure that one branch does not overstep its bounds and encroach on the freedom of a people. This much, everyone is taught in civics class. Yet the ruling by Justice Meenan does not read like he has taken it seriously. Justice Meenan’s argument against Waters’ and O’Doherty’s case is rather simple: he claims they must prove that the Irish government’s actions have been “disproportionate” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He claims, citing previous cases, that constitutional rights are not absolute and that if...

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May 2024
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