Referendums 2013: Voters’ guide
Every Irish citizen who is 18 years of age or over and included in the register of electors is entitled to vote
What is it?
The establishment of a court of appeal, as proposed in today’s referendum, would be the biggest shake-up in the courts system since 1937. At present there are four key rungs on the courts ladder: at the apex is the Supreme Court, followed by the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court. There is also a three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal, whose rotating membership includes two High Court judges and a member of the Supreme Court. Voters will be asked to amend the Constitution so as to allow for the creation of a new court between the High Court and the Supreme Court.
What would it do?
The court of appeal would hear most of the appeals currently heard by the Supreme Court, and its decision would in most cases be the final word. The Supreme Court could hear a challenge to a court of appeal decision if it considered that the decision involved a matter of general public importance or that the interests of justice required such an appeal. The Supreme Court could also hear an appeal directly from the High Court in certain circumstances. The court of appeal would hear civil and criminal appeals, and would therefore take over the functions of the Court of Criminal Appeal.
What else would change?
The referendum also proposes to remove the one-judgment rule, which compels the Supreme Court to issue only a single judgment when deciding on whether or not a law passed by the Oireachtas is constitutional. If the referendum is passed, each judge will be allowed to give his or her opinion in such cases.