Historically, Irish law did not draw a distinction between domestic arbitration and international arbitration. All arbitration proceedings were governed by the provisions of the Arbitration Act 1954 as amended by the Arbitration Act 1980.

A recognized feature of both acts was the involvement of the High Court in the arbitration process. Although the Irish courts have openly supported an independent arbitration system over many years, and have consistently refused to interfere in arbitration proceedings unless they felt that there was good reason to do so, it was accepted that Irish law did not make Ireland attractive as a venue for international arbitration. As a result, Ireland has recently made some amendments to its arbitration law, so that while domestic arbitration continues to be governed by the provisions of the 1954 act as amended by the 1980 act, there is now a separate law for international commercial arbitration.

The new law is the Arbitration (International Commercial) Act 1998. It adopts the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, with some amendments. For ease of reference, the act has been drafted in a way whereby the UNCITRAL Model Law has been adopted in its entirety; the amendments are detailed separately.

There are two principal amendments to the UNCITRAL Model Law. Firstly, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the arbitral tribunal has wide powers to award interest on sums due both prior to and subsequent to the date of the award. Secondly, an arbitrator is not to be liable for anything done or omitted to be done in the discharge or purported discharge of his or her functions as arbitrator, unless the act or omission is shown to have been in bad faith. This immunity also extends to anyone designated or requested by the parties to appoint or nominate an arbitrator.

The introduction of the 1998 act coincided with the opening of a new fully serviced International Arbitration Centre in Dublin, which is located at Distillery Building, 145/151 Church Street, Dublin 7. It has been sponsored by the General Council of the Bar of Ireland with the full support of the Law Society of Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators - Irish Branch and the National Committee for Ireland of the International Chamber of Commerce.

For further information on this topic please contact Michael Carrigan at Eugene F Collins by telephone (+353 1 667 5111) or by fax (+353 1 676 5200) or by e-mail ([email protected]).
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