Commercial court ‘routinely’ adjudicates on international disputes

Work likely to further develop due to Brexit, judge says

The Irish commercial court "routinely" adjudicates on international disputes involving billions of euro, the head of the court, Mr Justice David Barniville, has said.

The increasingly international nature of the work being done by the court is likely to further develop as the effects of Brexit become clearer, he said.

He was addressing a webinar on Tuesday organised by Ireland for Law, a Government-led initiative to promote the use of Irish legal services by the international business community.

The Republic is now the only English-speaking common-law jurisdiction in the European Union.


The Commercial Court has "four and one extra" judges assigned to it, Mr Justice Barniville said, with the extra judge, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, dealing with commercial planning and strategic infrastructure cases.

The other judges in the court are Mr Justice Denis McDonald, Mr Justice Michael Quinn and Mr Justice Brian O'Moore, as well as Mr Justice Barniville.

To get into the commercial list cases have to be commercial and involve claims of more than €1 million.

“But we routinely now hear cases where the value of the claims exceeds several billions,” Mr Justice Barniville said.

“We are increasingly seeing cases which have a significant international dimension, and that is likely to be even more so as the effects of Brexit become clearer.”

He cited a number of cases including funds cases linked to the collapse of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, with one such case that is to start shortly expected to last for more than 20 weeks.

He also mentioned the Trafalgar litigation, which involves a number of Russian-related entities and claims involving billions of euro centred on an alleged corporate raider scheme in Russia. These are “hotly disputed claims”, he said.


A recent case involved a Romanian aircraft-leasing company and a Moldovan national airline, Air Moldova, in relation to the enforcement of a London arbitration award.

“Air Moldova has weekly flights between Moldova and Dublin. I was surprised to hear, even during the Covid pandemic.” The court enforced the award, but released the aircraft at issue in the case.

The court is about to introduce an intellectual property and technology division, which will specialise in these areas, he said.

He said the court deals with corporate restructurings and schemes of arrangement which sometimes involve “vast amounts of money”.

A recent scheme concerning Nordic Aviation involved creditors in 80 different jurisdictions that had advanced $6 billion to the Irish aircraft-leasing company.

Legislation introduced since the Covid pandemic began means the courts can now direct that a case be heard remotely, even if the parties involved object.

“Business has to go on, parties have to have their cases heard, we can’t have a situation where the system is stagnated and everybody waits until we can have physical hearings again, because who knows when that might be.”

The webinar was also addressed by Tun Zaki Azmi, the former chief justice of Malaysia who is now the chief justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, an independent common-law jurisdiction court in Dubai.

The government has approved a memorandum of guidance with the Dubai court in relation to procedures for the enforcement of money judgments.