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28/07/2021

County Derry solicitor blasts Executive delay on response to legal challenge

Stephen Atherton is challenging the Covid-19 restrictions placed on youth sport.

Executive delay reply to legal challenge on youth sports

A legal challenge brought by a Magherafelt solicitor to restrictions on youth sport in Northern Ireland has been further delayed.

The Department of Health has requested more time to gather the information required for a response after Stephen Atherton of John J McNally & Co Solicitors in the town, indicated he would file proceedings for a Judicial Review into the restrictions.

Mr Atherton, who is acting on behalf of an 8-year-old footballer from County Derry, had been promised a response by December 1, and described the further delay as a 'manipulation of the legal process'.

"This so-called response from the Executive’s Solicitors, received at the 11th hour, is an affront to every child in the country who plays sport and who will once again suffer this weekend," he said. 

"It represents a blatantly cynical and quite frankly disgraceful manipulation of the legal process, at the expense of our children. This conduct will not deter me from seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Meanwhile, Mr Atherton has written to representatives from NI's major sporting bodies, the Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), asking them to indicate any steps they are taking to lobby the NI Executive for a resumption of outdoor sport for children.

The move comes after physician and epidemiologist Gabriel Scally publicly challenged the legitimacy and value of the continued restrictions on grassroots sports for children and young people in an interview given to today's Irish News.

Current restrictions on youth sport, along with a number of other measures put in place with the aim of reducing the rate of Covid-19 are expected to last until December 11 at the earliest.

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