Speed Read

The Irish Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) published new rules1 last year intended to comply with the applicable legislation in both the Republic of Ireland under the Arbitration Act 2010 and Northern Ireland under the Arbitration Act 1996 (the New CIArb Rules). CIArb is a leading international body dedicated to alternative dispute resolution and providing a "one stop shop" to assist parties in the resolution of any dispute. The New CIArb Rules are ideal for resolving disputes where a party has an association with the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland. Given the current uncertainties and difficulties with enforcement of court judgments between these jurisdictions due to Brexit, arbitration may be a very attractive alternative method of resolving disputes and ensuring enforceability.

The user friendly New CIArb Rules have some key features:

  • They are drafted in plain English designed to try and ensure an understanding by all involved, including a party who may not be legally represented;
  • They provide legal certainty in both jurisdictions, affording parties clarity on what they can expect from the arbitration process on both sides of the Irish border; and
  • They were developed to be compatible not only with the relevant Arbitration Acts but also with the United Nations' Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Arbitration.

It is hoped the New CIArb Rules will enhance the appeal and unique position of the Republic of Ireland as a seat for international arbitration given it is now the only English speaking fully common law jurisdiction in the EU. Accordingly, if parties want to ensure that contracts governed by the common law are the subject of the law of an EU member state, Irish law is an obvious option.

Background

One key factor for introducing the New CIArb Rules was to ensure compatibility with the UNCITRAL Model Law. This will ensure a consistent approach with arbitration rules in other jurisdictions and the enforcement of arbitral awards, in line with international agreements such as the 1958 New York Convention2.

Arbitration in the Republic of Ireland – An Attractive Seat

A 2015 study by Queen Mary University of London3 found that the legal infrastructure of the seat (e.g. the impartiality of the legal system, the national arbitration law, and enforceability of arbitration clauses and arbitral awards) were the most influential aspects for companies when choosing the seat of arbitration. Dublin replicates many of the advantages of London namely:

  • a reliable and impartial legal system;
  • English speaking;
  • an open and sophisticated business environment; and
  • a similar cultural outlook.

The Republic of Ireland offers highly experienced, top quality and internationally respected lawyers and arbitrators with an increasing number of Irish arbitrators having been appointed to the panels of the LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration), ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) and CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). The preamble to the New CIArb Rules also confirms they will be amended to account for the creation of a centralised global database of arbitrators by the CIArb's Disputes Appointment Service.

Supportive Legislation and Judiciary

The Irish courts have continuously emphasised the importance of finality in arbitrations and reiterated that they will only intervene in arbitrations, in very limited circumstances. Mr Justice Barnivlle in his introductory remarks to the New CIArb Rules stated the "Irish Courts have consistently demonstrated their support for the arbitral process". For example, the Irish High Court refused to set aside an arbitral award in a 2018 case4 and noted that it should only use its power to set aside an arbitral award in very limited circumstances and emphasised the importance of finality in arbitrations. The High Court went on to say that the onus of overturning the presumption that the arbitrator/tribunal has acted within its mandate is on the party seeking to set aside the award5.

The Irish judiciary takes a very broad interpretation of arbitration agreements and will typically interpret the scope of an arbitration clause in a contract as including all disputes under a contract between commercial parties6. This broad interpretation of an arbitration agreement, adopted by the Irish judiciary, promotes legal certainty in the resolution of disputes.

There is one High Court judge designated to deal with all arbitration related disputes that need to come before the Irish courts from which there is no appeal. This makes the process cost effective and efficient for the parties involved in any arbitration related matter that may need to come before the Irish Courts. All of the above factors reinforce the Republic of Ireland's pro-arbitration culture and expertise, making it an excellent choice as an arbitral seat. The introduction of the New CIArb Rules serves to amplify this.