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Here is Alan Shatter's quick guide to the Court of Appeal referendum

With so much debate on the Seanad referendum it is easy to forget the other thing we are being asked to vote on next month.

Let Alan explain...
Let Alan explain...
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter has said that the proposal to establish a Court of Appeal is the most fundamental reform to the court structure in Ireland since the State’s foundation.

He has called for the Court of Appeal referendum to be given more visibility as it has so far been overshadowed by the debate on the Seanad abolition vote.

Shatter was speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s referenda campaign launch yesterday.

All four main political parties are calling for a Yes vote in the court referendum and there has been no visible signs of dissent to the proposal as yet.

The proposed 33rd Amendment of the Constitution provides for the establishment of a new Court of Appeal which will aim to reduce the workload of the current Supreme Court.

Shatter said yesterday that the current court structure means a lengthy delay in cases being dealt with by the Supreme Court.

“If someone launched an appeal today they would be lucky to have their case heard by 2018,” he claimed saying there are 664 cases presently outstanding in the Supreme Court.

Though 77 of these have been given a priority hearing it will take a year for these cases alone to be determined, Shatter said.

‘Basic human right’

If the referendum is passed a new court will be set up at the level between the High Court and the Supreme Court. It would deal with most appeals which are currently dealt with by the Supreme Court.

“The Court of Appeal will have a facility to determine cases with a bit more speed than they are presently determined,” Shatter said.

He said it is envisaged that if the referendum is passed the Supreme Court will be able to determine which cases may be determined by the Court of Appeal.

While cases of “general public importance or where it is necessary in the interests of justice” will be heard by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the State.

The Court of Appeal, if established, will have a criminal and a civil division. The current Court of Criminal Appeal sits only “sporadically” the Minister claimed but would be more regular if the referendum is passed.

Shatter has four “basic reasons” why people should vote Yes. They are:

  • It will modernise the court system.
  • It will speed-up the process of appeals.
  • It is in the interests of everyone in the country that court proceedings are rapidly resolved and not delayed by as long as four years.
  • It is a basic human and civil right under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Shatter said that it is “not in interests of the State that the current situation continue” and also claimed that passing the referendum would be good for Ireland’s reputation among multinationals looking to invest here.

“Please give space to reporting this particular referendum so that people who are asked to vote know what the issues are,” Shatter requested of the media yesterday.

More: The Court of Appeal referendum is one thing all political parties are agreed on

Read: Levels of activity in courts ‘overwhelming’ and ‘unsustainable’ – Chief Justice

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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