Nine judges appointed, promoted in shake-up of courts

Six experiences High Court judges named as members of new Court of Appeal

Judges Mary Irvine and George Birmingham who were appointed as judges to the Court of Appeal. Photograph: Eric Luke

Judges Mary Irvine and George Birmingham who were appointed as judges to the Court of Appeal. Photograph: Eric Luke


Nine senior judges have been appointed or promoted in the biggest overhaul of the superior court system in four decades.

The Government yesterday announced that six High Court judges would be redesignated to the new Court of Appeal to serve alongside the new president of the court, Mr Justice Seán Ryan.

The Court of Appeal Act was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins last Sunday and is expected to be in operation by the end of the year. After last October’s majority Yes vote in the referendum on the court, the Constitution was amended to allow its establishment. Its seven judges will have the same status as Supreme Court judges.

In addition, the Government yesterday announced the appointment of three High Court judges to fill vacancies caused by retirements, and the designation of Mr Justice Peter Charleton to the Supreme Court.

Further appointments will be announced later this year to replace the six High Court judges appointed to the Court of Appeal.

It is the biggest shake-up of the superior court system since the Special Criminal Court was established in 1972 by then minister for justice Des O’Malley.

The six judges who will join Mr Justice Ryan include some of the most high-profile judges from the High Court. They include Peter Kelly, who was assigned to the Commercial Court; former academic and constitutional expert Gerard Hogan; the noted former criminal lawyer, Fine Gael TD and junior minister George Birmingham; Mary Finlay Geoghegan also of the Commercial Court and an expert on examinership; Mary Irvine, who has presided over many major medical negligence cases; and former solicitor Michael Peart.

The Government has also nominated Caroline Costello and Aileen Donnelly, both senior counsel, for appointment as High Court judges and Séamus Noonan SC to fill the vacancy that will arise when Mr Justice Barry White retires in September.

‘Continuing demand’

Chief Justice Susan Denham welcomed the appointments.

“That people have access to justice in ready forms of appeal is a must in a democratic society,” she said. “That there is a continuing demand can be seen by . . . the sheer volume of appeal work which comes before our Supreme Court. It amounts to many multiples of appeal numbers heard in other jurisdictions.”

Nicholas Kearns, president of the High Court, also congratulated the six judges and praised the contribution all had made while serving in the High Court. “The setting up of the new court – involving as it does the transfer to it of a large number of experienced High Court judges – will be a major loss to the High Court, but I am confident the High Court will respond positively and effectively to any challenges thus arising,” he said.

The court is to sit in temporary accommodation until its permanent home, the current Public Records Office, has been adapted.