An Irish couple who challenged quarantine rules which could have prevented them from returning home with their newborn baby, have been awarded legal costs by the High Court.
Mark Hedderman and Sinead Hedderman Gallagher, travelled to Ukraine in April in order to be present for the birth of their son who was carried by a surrogate. Measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 , require passengers arriving in Ireland from designated countries, including Ukraine, to quarantine in a pre-booked hotel for up to 14 days. The couple, from Portmarnock, Ireland, argued this requirement, regardless of personal circumstances, resulted in a disproportionate and unreasonable breach of their right to liberty.
Gallagher Hedderman told the Fingal Independent: 'We're facing coming off an aeroplane and being escorted by an army to a hotel room where we don't actually have supplies for the baby'.
Their case against the Attorney General, and the transport, heath, and foreign affairs ministers was heard by Justice Brian O'Moore. The couple's parliamentary representative, housing minister Darragh O'Brien was able to explain their situation to other ministers. The court heard that new regulations being introduced would allow the couple to return home, without having to quarantine in a hotel.
O'Brien told the Fingal Independent: 'Basically we ensured that the authorities were able to take a humanitarian view and a pragmatic view of their situation, and I'm glad that that happened.'
Counsel for the family, Micheál O'Higgins, told the court that the family had arrived home hours after the new regulations were introduced. As they had achieved their objective, the case was dismissed, although an order for legal costs was made against the respondents. Justice O'Moore made a costs order in favour of the family, to which the State's counsel Catherine Donnelly did not object. The costs are estimated to amount to a five-figure sum.
Despite the couple's exemption from mandatory quarantine as parents of a newborn baby, almost 90 percent of appeals against mandatory quarantine requirements have been unsuccessful, according to the Irish Times. The coronavirus pandemic has interfered with the travel of many intended parents of children born through international surrogacy arrangements, particularly when Russia closed its borders in March of last year (see BioNews 1058).
This is an added complication to the already challenging task of bringing children born by international surrogacy home.