Annual Lecture 2022: Emergency Powers and the Executive: Reflections on the Past and a Vision for the Future - Remarks by Jim O’Callaghan TD

Pagespp 195 - 207
Published date12 July 2022
Date12 July 2022
195
Remarks by
JIM O’CALLAGHAN TD*
I. Preliminary
For nearly two years from March 2020, extraordinary restrictions were imposed
upon the lives of people living in Ireland. Measures that were never previously
contemplated were introduced, with considerable public support, to restrict
many fundamental rights which, although not absolute, were expressly protected
under Bunreacht na hÉireann, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and
the European Convention on Human Rights. Freedom of movement, the right
to associate and the right to attend places of work and education were all ended.
People were precluded from visiting the homes of friends and relations. It was even
proposed by a state entity at one stage during that period that consideration should
be given to the introduction of mandatory vaccination of adults.1
e initial imposition of these restrictions was supported by the vast majority of
the public and all elected representatives in the Oireachtas as being appropriate
and proportionate considering the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inevitably, as time progressed and the threat from the disease declined, the initial
levels of support dropped but still remained strong. Fundamental rights were
restricted for nearly two years and were not restored permanently until four months
aer the vaccination of 92% of the adult population.2
e COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland has been the subject of signicant medical
and scientic assessment. ere have also been international political studies
assessing the comparative responses of dierent countries, including Ireland, to the
threat posed by the pandemic.3 e purpose of this talk is not to review or question
the decisions that were made by the Irish government on foot of the public
health advice it received during the pandemic (although that issue does deserve
appraisal and review for the purpose of preparing future public health ocials
* Jim O’Callaghan is a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay South. Jim was made Senior Counsel in 2008.
He also served as legal adviser to Fianna Fáil from 2011–2016. In May 2016, following his election
to Dáil Éireann, he was appointed party front-bench spokesman on Justice and Equality. Any views
or opinions expressed in this piece are the personal views and opinions of the speaker.
1 Minutes of a meeting of the NPHET on 16 December 2021 noted that it will discuss the issue of
mandatory vaccination at a later date and that this discussion will be facilitated by a forthcoming
paper from the Department of Health on the relevant ethical and legal considerations pertaining to
this topic.
2 By 27 September 2021 92% of the adult population was vaccinated. Restrictions were not fully
lied until 22 January 2022.
3 e Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT).

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