Ireland is a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.  In Yukos Capital S.A.R.L. v OAO Tomskneft VNK (a recent case in which the firm acted for the successful respondent), the Commercial Court held that Irish Courts have discretion to refuse to accept jurisdiction over an attempt to enforce an arbitral award in Ireland.

The Court declined to exercise jurisdiction in this case, based on the facts, including that the case had no connection with Ireland, there were no assets within Ireland, and there was no real likelihood of assets coming into Ireland.  Other relevant factors that led the Irish Court to decline jurisdiction included that this was the fourth attempt on the part of Yukos Capital to enforce this arbitral award, and it would be unjust to require Tomskneft (a Russian company) to bear the burden and expense of defence in Ireland.  

The Court found little evidence to demonstrate any “solid practical benefit” to be gained by Yukos Capital in enforcing the award in Ireland and specifically observed that the desire of Yukos Capital to obtain a judgment from a “respectable” court had already been exercised in other jurisdictions, thus far without success.   

The decision highlights the relevance of personal jurisdiction in the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards before the Irish Courts.  It also confirms that Ireland’s enforcement obligations under the New York Convention should be interpreted in light of the normal limitations on the Irish Courts’ jurisdiction.  Accordingly, the question of jurisdiction is a threshold issue when it comes to the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Ireland.  This decision is under appeal to the Supreme Court.