A building company has begun a High Court challenge to Covid-19 restrictions preventing construction works from resuming, claiming it is unjustifiable discrimination.

The company, which is owned by developer Paddy McKillen Junior, has said the restrictions have "very serious commercial consequences".

Blue Whisp, part of Mr McKillen's Oakmount Group, is developing 48 apartments on a site in Mount Merrion in Dublin. Work has been halted since 8 January.

Senior Counsel, Rossa Fanning, said the legal challenge was being taken because the restrictions had been in place until today, but it was anticipated they would be extended until at least 5 April.

Blue Whisp says the regulations are irrational, disproportionate and discriminatory because they allow certain works, including public housing and data centres to go ahead, but do not allow private housing to be built in the middle of a housing crisis.

Mr Fanning said his side was not overlooking the significant public health challenge posed by Covid-19. He said the Government faced an unenviable task trying to balance public health and economic considerations.

But he said Covid-19 did not distinguish between a data centre and a private housing development.

That was unjustifiable discrimination, he said, and did not take into account the changes in the public health landscape since January.

Blue Whisp says 40% of the construction industry is operating and the failure to allow the entire sector to operate is unlawful, disproportionate and breaches the Minister's duties of fairness and equal treatment.

Mr Fanning also claimed there was marginal evidence of Covid-19 infection associated with the part of the industry that was operating.

His client wants the court to overturn the restriction discriminating between different types of construction on a basis that "has no resonance in public health".

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the company's application to challenge the regulations should be made on notice to the Minister for Health and adjourned the matter until next Friday.

He said at that stage the minister could indicate if they would be opposing the application or whether he would agree to the application for permission to challenge the regulations and the substance of that challenge being heard together, in what is known as a "telescoped" hearing.