Court of Appeal (Ireland)

The Court of Appeal (Irish: An Chúirt Achomhairc) is a court in Ireland that sits between the High Court and Supreme Court. Its jurisdiction derives from Article 34.4. It was established in 2014, taking over the existing appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in 2014 and replacing the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Courts-Martial Appeal Court (subject to transitional provisions). Appeals to the Supreme Court are at that Court's discretion.

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The superior courts provided under the Courts of Justice Act 1924 and the 1937 constitution were the High Court and the Supreme Court. By the 1990s, there was a large backlog of cases in which the Supreme Court was required to hear appeals from the High Court. The Supreme Court heard a greater number of cases than its counterparts in other common law states.[1] A working group which reported in 2009 recommended introducing a new court to hear most appeals of High Court judgments, freeing up the Supreme Court to restrict itself to cases of constitutional importance. This would require amending the constitution to remove the general right to appeal to the Supreme Court and allow that court the discretion to decide which cases to hear itself.[2]

A constitutional amendment along the lines of the 2009 report was approved in a referendum on 4 October 2013. The Court of Appeal Act 2014 gave effect in primary legislation to the new constitutional provision.[3] The Rules of the Superior Courts and schedule of court fees were then amended by statutory instrument.[4][5] The court came into operation on 28 October 2014.[6]

In February 2014, the government announced that serving High Court judge Seán Ryan would be designated as the president of the new court. On 29 October 2014, the Government nominated Ryan and eight ordinary judges of the Court of Appeal,[7] who were appointed by the President of Ireland on the same day.[8] A ninth ordinary judge, John A. Edwards, was nominated on 11 November 2014,[9] and appointed on 4 December 2014.[10] Nine of the appointees to the new Court were judges of the High Court; one was promoted directly from the Circuit Court.[11]


On 28 October 2014, the Supreme Court transferred 258 cases to the Court of Appeal.[12] It later transferred more, to a total of about 1,650 cases.[13]

On 10 March 2015, the Court of Appeal upheld a May 2014 High Court ruling that section 2(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 was unconstitutional, thus annulling statutory instruments made under section 2(2) which criminalised various designer drugs.[14] Although the government may seek to appeal this to the Supreme Court, it had also made contingency plans for emergency legislation after the High Court ruling, and an Act was rushed through the Oireachtas on 10–11 March 2015.[15] International media reported on the one-day decriminalisation of MDMA and methamphetamine.[16][17]

In September 2016, a paper in The Irish Law Times claimed "the Court of Appeal never had a prayer of solving the problem that was put to the people in this referendum, which was solving the backlog", with 1,814 cases pending at the end of 2015 compared to 2,001 cases at the start.[18] A spokesperson for the court said it would process cases faster when it "finds its rhythm".[18] In October 2017, the court's President said it was "coming to the point of being overwhelmed" by its backlog of cases, with about 600 added annually compared to about 320 dealt with.[13] The Supreme Court offered to take back some of the 650 cases still outstanding from those it had transferred in 2014.[13]

In 2014, before the introduction of the Court of Appeal, the waiting time for appeals from the High Court was 5 to 7 years; in 2018, it averaged one year for appeals to the Supreme Court and 2 years to the Court of Appeal.[19]


The Court of Appeal consists of its president, up to 15 ordinary judges, and two ex officio members: the Chief Justice (head of the Supreme Court) and the President of the High Court.[20] The President of the Court of Appeal is ex officio an additional judge of both the Supreme Court and the High Court.[20] The Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019, which had cross-party support in the 32nd Dáil, increased the number of ordinary judges from 9 to 15.[21]

Current members

  •      denotes President
Name[22] Since
George Birmingham April 2018
John A. Edwards December 2014
Máire Whelan June 2017
Brian McGovern June 2018
Patrick J. McCarthy July 2018
Caroline Costello November 2018
Isobel Kennedy November 2018
Aileen Donnelly June 2019
Seamus Noonan November 2019
Mary Faherty November 2019
Robert Haughton November 2019
Úna Ní Raifeartaigh November 2019
Ann Power November 2019
Brian Murray November 2019
Maurice G. Collins November 2019

Ex officio members

Name Since Office
Frank Clarke July 2017 Chief Justice of Ireland
Peter Kelly December 2015 President of the High Court


  1. Butler, Graham (August 2015). "The Road to a Court of Appeal—Part I: History and Constitutional Amendment". Irish Law Times. Retrieved 31 August 2015. This was out-of-kilter with other jurisdictions of a similar nature in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
  2. Working Group on a Court of Appeal (May 2009). Report (PDF). Government Publications. Prn. A8/0153. Dublin: Stationery Office. ISBN 978-1-4064-2117-0.
  3. "Court of Appeal Act 2014". Irish Statute Book. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  4. "S.I. No. 485/2014 - Rules of the Superior Courts (Court of Appeal Act 2014) 2014". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  5. "S.I. No. 492/2014 - Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court (Fees) Order 2014". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  6. "Court of Appeal Act 2014 (Establishment Day) Order 2014". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General. 21 October 2014.
  7. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". 29 October 2014.
  8. "President appoints Appeal Court Judges". Áras an Uachtaráin. 28 October 2014. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014.
  9. "Appointment to the Court of Appeal". 11 November 2014.
  10. "President appoints Mr Justice John Edwards as Appeal Court Judge". Áras an Uachtaráin. 2 December 2014.
  11. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". 29 October 2014.
  12. "258 cases transferred to new Court of Appeal". RTÉ News. 28 October 2014.
  13. "Court of Appeal President warns court close to being overwhelmed". RTÉ.ie. 26 October 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  14. "Bederev -v- Ireland & ors". Judgments. Courts Service of Ireland. [2015] IECA 38. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  15. "Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015 (Number 21 of 2015)". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  16. McDonald, Henry (10 March 2015). "Irish Es are smiling – ecstasy and other drugs temporarily legal in Ireland". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  17. Minihan, Mary (14 March 2015). "Give Me a Crash Course In . . . the temporary legalisation of ecstasy". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 March 2015. Media outlets all over the world picked up on the unusual development.
  18. Gallagher, Conor (19 September 2016). "Court of Appeal backlog 'could take over a decade to clear'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  19. O'Donnell, Orla (4 March 2019). "Wait for Supreme Court to hear appeals falls to a year". RTÉ News. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  20. "Court of Appeal Act 2014, s.6". Irish Statute Book. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  21. "Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage". Seanad debates. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  22. "The judges". Courts Service of Ireland. 21 June 2017.
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