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Referendum to be held on creating new Court of Appeal

Another referendum to add to the ‘referendums on the way’ pile…

Image: reidrac via Flickr

THE GOVERNMENT has confirmed plans for a referendum creating a new court.

The referendum would create a new Court of Appeal, to exist between the High Court and the Supreme Court.

The new court would aim to reduce the workload on the Supreme Court, where the waiting list for non-priority cases to be heard is now four years long.

Cases which need to be heard more urgently can be put on a priority list – but no new cases are currently being added to it, as there are already 70 cases deemed to be a high priority.

“This is just the first step on the road to a Referendum of the People which will be held in the autumn,” said Alan Shatter this lunchtime.

“Work will now proceed on the preparation of the necessary legislation and the Government will consult with interested parties on the detail of that legislation over the coming months.”

While many Supreme Courts deal only with substantial points of law or constitutional disputes, Ireland’s Supreme Court also deals with appeals from other matters from the Court of Criminal Appeal, for example, and the appeal of other more routine cases from the High Court.

The proposals would mean the Court of Criminal Appeal taking the bulk of that workload, with the Supreme Court’s role becoming more similar to other top-level courts.

Last year the Chief Justice, Susan Denham, said the current workload being faced by the Supreme Court was unworkable – and lent her support to the creation of a new superior court to deal with appeals in civil cases.

The legislation behind the referendum is unlikely to be completed in time to be held this year, however, when a range of other referendums are already planned.

The government has already committed to holding a referendum this autumn on abolishing the Seanad, and has already seen recommendations from the Constitutional Convention to lower the voting age to 16, change the clauses regarding the role of women in society, and expressly allow same-sex marriage.

It will also be expected to hold referendums on other matters suggested by the Constitutional Convention, and on the creation of a new Unified Patent Court to govern the introduction of a new EU-wide patent system.

Read: Ireland will need referendum to create EU court for patents

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Gavan Reilly

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