The Minister for Justice recently announced the Government’s intention to hold a referendum in September on the proposal to create a Court of Appeal in Ireland, to be placed between the High and Supreme Courts. The rationale for the Court's introduction is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the court infrastructure and cutting down waiting times for appeals. In a separate move to the same end, the Supreme Court is to be expanded with the appointment of a further two judges to the panel.
The Chief Justice, speaking extra-judicially, highlighted commercial as well as rights-based concerns for enhancing the Irish courts system’s appellate capacity: “Speedy resolution of disputes is important in a successful economy . . . a failure to address problems [of undue delay in appeals] may be damaging to Irish society and the economy. Effective rule of law propels prosperity. Stronger rule of law boosts foreign investment and lowers unemployment. The rule of law is, therefore, an important consideration for business people and investors when deciding to do business in a country.”
Ireland already has a dedicated Commercial Court with extensive case management powers backed up by the ability to enforce rigorous time-tables by using costs to sanctions. This has resulted in impressive turnaround times by international standards: 50% of cases are concluded in less than 12 weeks; and 75% in less than 33 weeks (2011 figures). The development of a new Court of Appeal, along with an expanded Supreme Court, is welcomed as further steps in ensuring that the high quality of the court-based adjudication of disputes in Ireland is not undermined by delay at appellate level.