Court of Appeal (Ireland)

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For the 1877–1924 court, see Irish Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal (Irish: An Chúirt Achomhairc) is a court in Ireland that sits between the High Court and Supreme Court and took over the existing appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in 2014. It replaces 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.


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 each of their 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] whilst Article 64 of the Constitution, inserted by the constitutional amendment will be automatically deleted on 28 October 2015, one year after the Court's establishment.[7]

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,[8] who were appointed by the President of Ireland on the same day.[9] A ninth ordinary judge, John A. Edwards, was nominated on 11 November 2014,[10] and appointed on 4 December 2014.[11] Nine of the appointees to the new Court were judges of the High Court; one was promoted directly from the Circuit Court.[12]


On 28 October 2014, the Supreme Court transferred 258 cases to the Court of Appeal.[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]


The Court of Appeal consists of its president, and not more than nine ordinary members.[18] There are two ex officio members: the Chief Justice, who normally sits in the Supreme Court, and the President of the High Court who normally sits in the High Court.

Current members

Name Term of office Notes
Seán Ryan 2014–present President
Mary Finlay Geoghegan 2014–present
Michael Peart 2014–present
George Birmingham 2014–present
Mary Irvine 2014–present
Garrett Sheehan 2014–present
Gerard Hogan 2014–present
Alan Mahon 2014–present
John A. Edwards 2014–present

Ex-officio members

Name Since Notes
Susan Denham 2014–present Chief Justice of Ireland
Peter Kelly 2015–present 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. Butler, Graham (August 2015). "The Road to a Court of Appeal—Part II: Distinguishing Features and Establishment". Irish Law Times. Retrieved 31 August 2015. Article 34A.4 specified that that all references to the Article 34A would be deleted once the Court of Appeal was established, whilst Article 64 would be removed one year after the court’s establishment date. 
  8. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". 29 October 2014. 
  9. "President appoints Appeal Court Judges". Áras an Uachtaráin. 28 October 2014. 
  10. "Appointment to the Court of Appeal". 11 November 2014. 
  11. "President appoints Mr Justice John Edwards as Appeal Court Judge". Áras an Uachtaráin. 2 December 2014. 
  12. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". 29 October 2014. 
  13. "258 cases transferred to new Court of Appeal". RTÉ News. 28 October 2014. 
  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. "Court of Appeal Act 2014, s.6". Irish Statute Book. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 

External links

Courts Service of Ireland
British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)