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COVID-19, Ireland, Northern Ireland, European Convention on Human Rights, reasonableness, human rights, free movement, article 8, foreseeability
In 2020, Ireland and Northern Ireland implemented separate legislative strategies to tackle COVID-19, despite the island comprising a single epidemiological unit. This article evaluates and contrasts the framing of ‘reasonable excuses’ in the regulations adopted by Ireland and Northern Ireland between March and December of 2020. It submits that the rejection of an ‘all-Ireland’ approach, side by side lack of effective regulatory coordination and enforcement, likely had implications for transmission in each state.
The regulations have entailed far-reaching incursions on civil liberties, often without providing the public with a clear evidence base. The complexity of the legislation as well as conflicting government guidance, contributed to a climate of public confusion, which created subsequent difficulties for enforcement, notably in the border regions. Insufficient coordination undermined measures by allowing for loopholes to be exploited. The article reflects on the human rights implications thereof, focusing on transparency and proportionality.