New Circuit Court Rules* (the Rules) have been introduced which provide that a Circuit Court Judge or County Registrar at a case progression hearing** may, on the application of any of the parties on notice or of his own motion, adjourn the proceedings or any issue therein, for a period not exceeding 28 days, to allow the parties to use mediation, conciliation or arbitration or any other dispute resolution process to settle or determine the proceedings or issue in question.

The Commercial Court Rules*** contain a similar provision to facilitate the use of mediation, conciliation or arbitration. It is hoped that the Rules will lead to in an increased use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods in the Irish courts and thereby shorten the duration and reduce the costs of proceedings.

The Rules apply to:

  1. Equity Proceedings;
  2. Proceedings on foot of a Succession Law Civil Bill;
  3. A claim for specific performance or for damages for breach of contract in respect of the construction, extension, alteration or repair of a building or other structure; and
  4. Any other category of proceedings, or any other proceedings having or involving any characteristics, designated by the President of the Circuit Court as proceedings which may be subject to case progression, such designation to be published in such manner as the President of the Circuit Court shall direct.

The Rules provide that "the purpose of case progression is to ensure that proceedings are prepared for trial in a manner which is just, expeditious and likely to minimise the costs of the proceedings and that the time and other resources of the court are employed optimally".

In regard to costs implications of the Rules, it is provided that where it appears to the County Registrar or to the Court that a case progression hearing cannot conveniently proceed, by reason of the failure of a party to be prepared for such hearing or, by reason of the default of any party in complying with any order or direction, the County Registrar or the Court may award costs against such party, or may disallow the costs of such party. The Rules came into effect on 1st January 2010.

*S.I. 539 of 2009 Circuit Court Rules (Case Progression (General)) 2009

**Case Progression refers to the preparation of proceedings for trial in accordance with the procedure under the Rules.

***S.I. 2 of 2004 Rules of the Superior Courts (Commercial Proceedings), 2004