Arbitration agreements

What are the formal requirements for an enforceable arbitration agreement?

Section 2(1) of the 2010 Act applies Option 1 of article 7 of the UNCITRAL Model Law to the requirements of an arbitration agreement. It provides that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing (this concept is broadly interpreted), whether in the form of an arbitration clause in a contract or in the form of a separate agreement, and must indicate that the parties submit to arbitration all or certain disputes that have arisen or that may arise between them in respect of a defined legal relationship.

Arbitral procedure

Does the domestic law contain substantive requirements for the procedure to be followed?

Chapter V of the Model Law sets out the basic principles regarding the conduct of arbitration proceedings in general terms. Article 19 of the Model Law confirms that the parties are entitled to set their own procedure and, failing agreement on that, it is for the tribunal to conduct the arbitration in such manner as it considers appropriate. This will generally be decided at a preliminary meeting between the parties and the tribunal, following which the tribunal will issue an order for directions. Article 18 provides for a requirement that the parties be treated equally and each party is to be given a full opportunity to present their case.


When and in what form must the award be delivered?

The legal requirements for an arbitral award are set out in article 31 of the Model Law, which provides that the award shall be in writing, be signed by the arbitrator or arbitrators and set out the reasons upon which it is based, unless the parties have agreed that no reasons are to be given. The award shall also state its date and the place of arbitration. If an award also deals with costs, the tribunal must also deal with the requirements set out in section 21 of the 2010 Act, which are detailed in question 33.


On what grounds can an award be appealed to the court?

While there is no appeal against an arbitral award under the 2010 Act, an application can be brought to the High Court seeking an award to be set aside. The application must be made within three months of receipt of the award. The grounds upon which such an application can be made are set out at article 34 of the Model Law and include where:

  • a party to the arbitration was under some incapacity, or the said agreement is invalid under the law to which the parties have subjected it;
  • the party making the application was not given proper notice of either the appointment of an arbitrator or of the proceedings or was otherwise unable to present his or her case;
  • the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by the terms of the arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the arbitration;
  • the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties; or
  • where the court finds that the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under the law of the state; or the award is in conflict with the public policy of the state.

If the High Court is satisfied that any of the above grounds are met, it can set aside the award.


What procedures exist for enforcement of foreign and domestic awards?

Section 23(1) of the Arbitration Act 2010 provides that an arbitral award shall be enforceable in the state either by action or by leave of the High Court in the same manner as a judgment or order of that court.

Section 24 of the 2010 Act gives the New York Convention, the Geneva Convention and the Geneva Protocol force of law in Ireland. Articles 35 and 36 of the Model Law provide for recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. Unless there is reason to deny enforcement (the grounds for which are set out at article 36(1) of the Model Law), enforcement is generally not problematic. The Irish Courts may also decline to enforce a foreign arbitral award if it can be shown that there is no practical benefit to such enforcement in Ireland on the basis that there are no assets and no likelihood of there being assets within the jurisdiction against which to enforce.