Legal experts at Trinity College Dublin have called on the Government to clarify its relationship with the National Public Health Emergency Team and to explain the decision-making process for public health restrictions.

In a report examining decisions made during the pandemic, the Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory at Trinity pinpoint a significant lack of transparency in many key decisions made by Government.

The report's authors found that at various points throughout the pandemic, there were unclear lines of accountability when it came to Government decision-making.

The general lack of transparency, they found, ranged from who actually made key decisions to whether certain public health measures were legally enforceable.

The report suggests the Government "de facto re-delegated" sweeping new powers to NPHET.

The report makes 16 recommendations to improve governance and also calls on the prison service to make public the measures adopted during the pandemic and for Government to end Direct Provision without delay.


Latest coronavirus stories


Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, one of the report's authors said that while there were many positive aspects about the pandemic response and the measures were often very effective, "there was simply too much that was unclear about who was making decisions, and what matters were dealt with, with legal rules, and what matters were simply public health guidance."

Associate Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin Dr David Kenny said decisions made under pressure and processes put in place during an emergency situation are never going to be perfect, and some of the failings would be understandable and entirely excusable at the beginning of the pandemic response.

However, he said, the concern is that many of these problems have persisted into the current response.

Dr Kenny said one issue raised in the report was that in the period in the aftermath of Christmas, there is very little evidence that any significant questioning of NPHET advice was being undertaken, even when media reports suggested there was some government opposition to this advice.

The concern, he said, is that while NPHET is an excellent body, it is not democratically elected and is not legally empowered to make binding, public health decisions.

He said the Observatory was set up to keep some constant oversight on pandemic response measures and the report was compiled by over a dozen contributors examining public health law issues.