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Irish Supreme Court
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Irish Supreme Court

This article is part of the series
Politics of the R. of Ireland
Council of State
Dáil Éireann
Seanad Éireann
Supreme Court
The Supreme Court (Irish: Chúirt Uachtarach) is the highest judicial authority in the Republic of Ireland. The Supreme Court is the "Court of Final Appeal" and exercises judicial review, to ensure that other institutions of the state comply with the Constitution of Ireland. The Supreme Court consists of its presiding member, the Chief Justice, and seven other judges. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President in accordance with the binding advice of the Government. The Supreme Court currently sits in the Four Courts in Dublin.

Table of contents
1 Composition and functions
2 Judicial review
3 Important rulings
4 Current judges (7th May, 2004)
5 Related topics
6 External link

Composition and functions

The precise number of judges of the Supreme Court may be changed by law. At present it consists of the Chief Justice and seven ordinary judges. In addition it also includes the President of the High Court who is ex officio a member of the court. The Supreme Court sits as a three, five or eight judge court and may sit in two or more divisions at the same time. When ruling on constitutional questions it must sit as either a five or eight judge court. Judges of the Supreme Court may be removed from office, but only for stated misbehaviour or incapacity. To remove a judge a resolution must be passed by both houses of the Oireachtas (parliament). Once such a motion has been approved the judge is dismissed by the President.

The court has such appellate jurisdiction from decisions of the High Court and lower courts as is determined by law. However the law cannot exempt from the Supreme Court's jurisdiction the power to decide upon the constitutionality of laws. In practice the Supreme will usually only hear appeals on points of law. When it rules on the constitutionality of a law its decision is given by only one judge and no dissenting opinions may be made public. In all other cases dissenting opinions are permitted. Under Article 12 of the constitution if the Supreme Court, in a sitting consisting of at least five judges, determines that the President has become "permanently incapacitated" then it may remove the President from office. The remuneration of a judge may not be diminished during their term of office.

Today the Irish judiciary shares authority with two supra-national courts: the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Justice. In matters relating to the correct interpretation of European Union law decisions of the European Court of Justice take precedence over those of the Irish Supreme Court.

Judicial review

Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Republic's constitution, states that

every law enacted by the Oireachtas which is in any respect repugnant to this Constitution or to any provision thereof, shall, but to the extent only of such repugnancy, be invalid (Article 15.4.2).

The activities of the Government (executive) must also be both constitutional and legal. The constitution makes the Supreme Court the highest authority in interpreting the constitution and its decision on any such question is final. The court can therefore strike down laws, or provisions of laws, that it finds to be unconstitutional and order the Government to comply with the constitution. The Supreme Court also settles questions as to the correct interpretation of ordinary laws. However, the Supreme Court cannot declare to be invalid a law that has previously been referred to it by the President, under her reserve powers, and on that occasion been found to be constitutional. After a slow start in its first few decades the Supreme Court has made some important decisions in judicial review. In particular it has:

Important rulings

Current judges (7th May, 2004)

Related topics

External link