On the Appeal Court Referendum

I have had a bit of experience with the Irish courts system.  It is bewildering, glacially slow and seems designed more for the benefit of the legal professions than for anything else.  And it is also eye-wateringly expensive- meaning that many people simply can’t use the system to assert their rights as the risks are enormous.

Delays and expense mean that the system favours big players such as the state or companies who can afford to shell out and make the system work for them.  If you can afford to keep raising the stakes, your opponent may have to leave the field.  That is not how a republic should work.  The ultimate goal should be that any reasonably eloquent citizen should be able to represent themselves effectively in our court system.

Alan Shatter has not made any significant moves to address the glaring issues with our courts system.  But the minor step of bringing in a court of appeal between high and supreme courts does make sense as the delays in hearing appeals from the high court are ridiculous.  As Michael Williams puts it this may be “as a sticking-plaster, where major surgery is needed” but it is better than doing nothing.  There is a long road ahead though, and I severely doubt whether the will exists among our politicians to really tackle it.

I would not quite go so far as one of my brothers who feels that the first step to a better Ireland would be to put all lawyers against a wall and shoot them, but this sentiment captures the disconnect between the legal system and citizens.  Ireland, and Mr Shatter in particular must do better.  I will vote yes in the referendum as it’s a tiny step along to path to doing so.

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