Gladys ryan plaintiff V. The attorney general



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[1965]
1 I.R.

294

GLADYS RYAN Plaintiff v. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL Defendant.

(1962. No. 913 P.)






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Supreme Court.

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3 July 1964



Constitution of Ireland - Statute - Validity - Provision for fluoridation of watersupplied to public - Whether a violation of personal rights of citizens -Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Art. 40, 3; Arts. 41, 42 - Health (Fluoridationof Water Supplies) Act, 1960 (No. 46 of 1960), s. 2, sub-ss. 1, 2 and 3;ss. 3, 4 - Fluoridation of Water Supplies (Dublin) Regulations, 1962 (S.I.,1962, No. 75), Arts. 3, 5, 6, 8.

The Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act, 1960, by s. 2, sub-ss. 1, 2 and 3, imposes an obligation on a health authority (as therein defined) to arrange for the fluoridation of water supplied to the public by sanitary authorities, through pipes, before a date to be fixed by the Minister for Health. The Minister is empowered to make regulations which shall "in particular provide for the specification of the amount of fluorine (which shall not exceed one part by weight of fluorine per million parts of water) which may be added to a water supply." By s. 2, sub-s. 4, of the Act, prior to making such regulations the Minister is required, inter alia, to cause to be made a survey of the incidence of dental caries in a representative sample of pupils attending full-time day schools in the functional areas of a health authority to which the regulations relate and also to have an analysis of, inter alia, the quantities of fluorine in the water supplied by sanitary authorities through pipes to the public in such functional areas. Pursuant to the Act, the Minister, in 1961, caused a survey of the incidence of dental caries among children in, inter alia, the Dublin area to be carried out by the Medical Research Council and he also caused to be made an analysis of the piped water in this area by the public analyst for the City and County of Dublin. The reports of the survey and analysis were subsequently presented to the Oireachtas. On the 5th May, 1962, the Minister, in exercise of his powers under ss. 2 and 4 of the Act, made the Fluoridation of Water Supplies (Dublin) Regulations, 1962 (S.I., 1962, No. 75), which required the Dublin Health Authority to arrange for the fluoridation, inter alia, of the piped water supply provided by the Corporation of Dublin. Article 5 of these Regulations provided that "The amount of fluorine which may be added to a water supply in accordance with these regulations shall be such that the water, after the addition of the fluorine, shall contain not more than one part of fluorine per million parts of water, and not less than eight-tenths of a part of fluorine per million parts of water."

The plaintiff, the mother of five children, who resided in the City of Dublin and whose house was connected with the public piped water supply of the Dublin Corporation, claimed that the provisions of s. 2, sub-ss. 1, 2 and 3 and ss. 3 and 4 of the Act were void on the grounds 1, that they violated her rights and those of her children under Art. 40, 3, of the Constitution; 2, that they were a violation of the authority of the family under Art. 41 and a violation of the family's right to physical education of the children under Art. 42 of the Constitution.

Held by the High Court (Kenny J.) 1, that legislation dealing with the contents of food or drink does not in any way affect the authority of the family and the Act of 1960 is not an interference with the rights guaranteed to the family by Art. 41 of the Constitution;

2, That the word, "education," in Art. 42, 1, of the Constitution is not used in its former wide sense which included "rearing and nurturing." The education referred to in Art. 42, 1, having regard to the words of section 2 of the said Article ("Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State"), must be of a scholastic nature. Therefore, the fluoridation of the public water supply (even if it be harmful) does not interfere with or violate the rights given to the family and to the parents by Art. 42 of the Constitution;

3, That the High Court has jurisdiction to consider whether an Act of the Oireachtas respects and, as far as practicable, defends and vindicates the




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