Rule of Law in Ireland

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

green
An independent Judicial Council tasked with safeguarding judicial independence was established at the end of 2019.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public and among companies is high.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A planned reform aims at reorganising the system for judicial appointments and promotion.
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A new body in charge of disciplinary proceedings against judges has been established, improving accountability of judges.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The newly established Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee is in charge of compiling general guidelines as to the level of damages that may be awarded by courts.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Quality

green
The justice system budget and the number of judges remain below EU average.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A Review Group has been established to assess the administration of civil justice, with a view to inter alia improve access to justice and reducing the cost of litigation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is taking measures to tackle remaining barriers in the legal services market.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Work is ongoing on the digitalisation of the justice system.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Measures have been taken to facilitate the continued operations of courts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Efficiency

yellow
The ongoing review of the civil justice system looks at improving procedures and practices to ensure timely hearings.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The criminal trial procedure is in course of revision.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A compensation scheme for cases of excessive length of court proceedings is still lacking.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

green
In the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, Ireland scored 74/100 and ranked 8th in the EU and 18th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The legal and institutional framework for fighting corruption has seen some important modifications recently.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The competences and responsibilities for the development and implementation of anti-corruption policies as well as for preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting corruption are shared between several authorities in Ireland.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

green
Prevention of corruption and promotion of integrity measures are in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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General rules and procedures concerning conflicts of interest are set out in the Ethics Acts.
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Repressive measures

yellow
Following completion of corruption investigations by An Garda Síochána, a file is submitted to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, unless the investigation was discontinued due to insufficient evidence.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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An assessment of the anti-corruption structures and procedures in criminal law enforcement is ongoing.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Some high-level corruption cases have been dealt with by Tribunals of Inquiry.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The investigation and monitoring of ethics compliance faces some legislative and structural obstacles.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
The regulator for audiovisual media services, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is considered to be effective, transparent and independent.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

yellow
In January 2020, the Minister for Communications introduced a draft Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill in order to transpose parts of the revised AVMSD.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The Press Council of Ireland (PCI) and the Office of the Press Ombudsman (PO) consider press complaints.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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In 2019 the BAI concluded a contract with Dublin City University to update and publish annually the information on ownership and control arrangements and changes thereto.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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There are no specific rules on state advertising in media.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Journalists' Protection

green
The new Government has pledged to reform the defamation laws.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Access to information is overall ensured.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
A practice of consultation process of draft Bills and Laws exists.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Legislative measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic were adopted via normal legislative procedure, with a focused discussion.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

yellow
Ireland has a vibrant and diverse civil society, although funding restrictions have raised some concerns.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Independent Authorities

green
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is accredited with ‘A’ status.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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