Warning that public will be unaware of second referendum on a Court of Appeal
New Court “a once in a lifetime opportunity” and needed to deal with four-year delays in cases
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter fears public focus will not be on court of appeal vote. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has expressed concern in the Seanad that little attention will be paid to a referendum to create a new court of appeal, putting its chances of being passed at risk.
It will take place on Friday October 4th, the same day as the referendum on whether to abolish the Seanad.
The Minister is concerned that so much attention has been paid to the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad and to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill on abortion that the electorate will be unaware of the issue about the court of appeal.
There was a possibility the focus on the Seanad “will result in the general public being unaware of what this proposal is about, and it could create a difficulty in securing the Yes vote required”.
The Seanad yesterday supported the Thirty-Third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill. If accepted in the October referendum a new court of appeal will be established, most likely in late 2014, whose remit will include the work of the Criminal Court of Appeal.
Introducing the legislation, which has already been passed by the Dáil, Mr Shatter said it was necessary because of the up to four years’ delay in hearing Supreme Court appeals.
He said citizens had a right recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights to a fair and speedy trial. The State has already had to pay compensation because of successful cases taken to the European Court because of delays. Ireland’s reputation “is in the dock” in relation to human rights and the rule of law.
Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien said his party fully supported the legislation and would actively campaign for a Yes vote.
Martin Conway (FG) said the Minister was proposing comprehensive reform of the courts system. “This should have been done long ago, and it is welcome that the matter is finally being addressed.”
Lorraine Higgins (Labour), a lawyer, said “the new court will be a welcome departure in that it will assist in reducing the time within which an appeal can be heard and will limit the remit of the Supreme Court, which will only hear cases on appeal from the court of appeal and, in exceptional circumstances, from the High Court”.