Legal action cost and migrant status set for reform

McEntee to publish Justice Plan 2021 setting out 200 actions for next year

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Photograph: Julien Behal

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Photograph: Julien Behal


Efforts to reduce the high costs of taking legal actions and a scheme to regularise the status of thousands of undocumented migrants are among proposals to be announced today.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will publish her Justice Plan 2021, which contains more than 200 actions to be implemented in the next 12 months.

The modernisation of Ireland’s licensing laws to potentially allow longer opening hours and help pubs and nightclubs recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is also included.

The cost of litigation was among issues examined by a review group into the Administration of Civil Justice chaired by former president of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly, which delivered its report last year.

It said that while comprehensive data on the levels of litigation costs is not available, it is clear from surveys and experience in individual cases that “Ireland ranks among the highest-cost jurisdictions internationally”.

Under the Justice Plan 2021, work is to start on introducing new – independently drawn up – scales of legal costs in a bid to reduce costs.

The Department of Justice is to begin identifying suitable approaches to establishing the scales.

Whether or not it is possible to make such scales binding – except in instances where there is an agreement to a different approach between a specific client and lawyer – will also be examined.

Undocumented migrants

Ms McEntee said the plans represented a “clear commitment” to help improve the information the public will have about the costs of taking legal actions.

“Not knowing how much legal proceedings could ultimately cost currently acts as a barrier to accessing justice and is damaging to our economy and competitiveness.”

Ms McEntee will also announce plans to bring in a scheme to allow for the regularisation of an estimated 17,000 undocumented migrants in Ireland, 3,000 of whom are young people or children.

It is intended for the scheme to be launched by autumn, with applications to be accepted by the end of the year.

Referring to the plight of undocumented Irish people in the United States, the Minister said: “We must acknowledge there are thousands of people here in Ireland in a similar position.”

She said they have started families in Ireland, work here and “contribute so much to our society”.

She said the scheme would demonstrate “a similar commitment to those who have made our country their home as we ask be shown to our own people abroad”.