The Supreme Court of Ireland (Irish: Cúirt Uachtarach na hÉireann ) is the highest judicial authority in Ireland. It is a court of last instance and exercises, along medhovrätten and the Supreme Court, judicial review of acts of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament). The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to ensure that the Constitution of Ireland, government agencies and individuals. It sits in the Four Courts in Dublin.


The Supreme Court was formally established September 29, 1961 under the terms of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. [1] [2] Prior to 1961 allowed a transitional provision of the 1937 Constitution, the Supreme Court of Irish Free State to continue, even if the judges had to take the new oath of office prescribed in 1937 Constitution. [3] the latter court set up by the courts of Justice Act 1924 in accordance with the terms of the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. [4] Prior to 1924, allowed a transitional provision of the 1922 Constitution, the Supreme court of Judicature to continue, [5] the latter was founded 1877 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. [6] the 1924 act was a comprehensive review of the Court’s basically preserving some of the 1877 event, the 1961 Act was a short formal translation in terms of the 1937 Constitution.


The Supreme Court consists of its president called the chief justice, and no more than nine members. [7] There are two ex officio members: the President of the Court of Appeal normally sits in the Court of Appeal, and the President of the High Court normally sits in the High Court. The Supreme Court sits in divisions of three, five or seven judges. Two or more departments can sit at the same time. In assessing whether the President is permanently unable under Article 12 of the Constitution, to rule on the constitutionality of a bill based on the President in accordance with Article 26, or to rule on the constitutionality of any law court must consist of at least five members . [8]

Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President of Ireland in accordance with the binding advice of the Government (Cabinet), which since 1995, acting in turn on the non-binding advice of a legal advisory board. [9]

current members

name Since Alma mater mandatory
Susan Denham December 1992 TCD (BA (m) jurisprudence), Columbia University (LL.M.), King Inn 2017 Chief Justice since 2011, [10]
First woman appointed CJ [11]
Donal O’Donnell March 2010, UCD (BCL), UVA (LLM), King’s Inn [11] 2029
Liam McKechnie June 2010 UCC (BCL), King’s Inn [11] 2021
Frank Clarke February 2012 UCD (BCL), King’s Inn [11] 2021
John MacMenamin February 2012 UCD (BCL), King’s Inn [11] 2022
mary Laffoy July 2013 UCD (BCL), King Inn 2017
Elizabeth Dunne July 2013 UCD (BCL), King Inn 2026
Peter Charleton June 2014 TCD (BA (m) jurisprudence), King Inn 2026
Iseult O’Malley October 2015 TCD (BA (m) jurisprudence), King Inn

Ex-officio members

name Since Alma mater mandatory
Seán Ryan October 2014 UCD, the King’s Inns President of the Court of Appeal [11]
Peter Kelly december 2015 UCD, the King’s Inns President of the High Court[11]


According to the Courts Act and judicial officials was in 1995 retirement ordinary judge of the Supreme Court reduced from 72 years to 70 years.Judges appointed before the entry into operation of this Act may continue working until age 72. The courts (No 2) Act 1997 limited the term of a person appointed to the post of chief justice following the entry into operation the law to a period of seven years. A former chief justice can continue as a member of the audit until he or she reaches the statutory retirement age.


The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeal, and as part of the transitional arrangements after the conclusion of the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Audit Criminal Appeal and the Court-Martial Appeal Court, where the case has not been transferred from the Supreme Court of Appeal. The Court’s power to rule on the application may be severely restricted (as it is from the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Court-Martial Appeal Court) or excluded altogether, except for appeals if the consequence of a law with the Constitution. The Supreme Court is also legal questions referred to it by the Circuit Court.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in only two cases. This is when a bill is called to it by the President of an opinion on the constitutional law prior to the issue in accordance with Article 26 of the Constitution or where the Court must determine, in accordance with Article 12 of the Constitution, if the president has become incapacitated.

The Supreme Court has little discretion to decide which cases it hears the claim seeking dismissal of either the court or the Supreme Court itself before an appeal can be rare. [12]

Judicial review

Main article: Judicial review in Ireland


The Supreme Court exercises, along with the High Court the power to strike down laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution. The courts also injunctions against public bodies, private organizations and citizens to ensure that the Constitution. The Irish constitution explicitly provides for judicial review of legislation. Acts passed after the entry into force of the Constitution, is invalid if “repugnant” to the Constitution, [13] while the laws in force before the entry into force of the Constitution is invalid if “inconsistent” with the Constitution. [14] The Constitution also provides, in accordance with Article 26, for judicial review of bills before they are (or would have been) signed into law. The power to refer bills personally exercised by the President after consulting the Government. When the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of a bill referred to in Article 26, its constitutional law can not be challenged in court at any time. [15]

Supreme Court judges are normally free to deliver their own assessments, divergent and convergent. There is an exception when considering the constitutionality of a bill referred by the President under Article 26 of the Constitution, where only a single judgment may be delivered. [16] Previously, the only judgment rule even when considering the constitutionality of a law by the Oireachtas passed under 1937 Constitution, this was removed by the 33rd Amendment to 2013. Acts passed prior to 1937 has always permitted several judgments. [n 1]


After a slow start during the first two decades of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has rendered a significant constitutional jurisprudence. This slow start was in part because, before 1922, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and the Supreme Court judges had been trained in British jurisprudence, which stresses the sovereignty of Parliament and respect the legislature. It was also true that the 1922 Constitution was a right of appeal to the Privy Council to bear on a number of occasions. Nevertheless, from the 1960s onwards, the Court has made a number of important decisions. It has, for example:

  • Developed a doctrine of unenumerated rights based on an expansive interpretation of Article 40.3.1 °, with elements of natural law and liberal democratic theory.
  • Developed and defended the separation of powers.
  • Ruled that major changes to the Treaties establishing the European Union can not be ratified by the state is not allowed under a previously passed constitutional amendment.
  • Ruled that Articles 2 and 3 (as they stood before 1999) does not impose obligations on the state that was enforceable in a court of law.
  • Discovered a broad right to privacy in marital affairs implicit in Article 41.
  • Discovered a right to abortion where there is a risk to the mother’s life by suicide in Article 40.3.3 °.
  • Imported doctrine of proportionality in Irish law.

important decisions

  • 1950 – . Buckley v Attorney General (right to property)
  • 1965 – Ryan v Attorney General. (The Doctrine of unenumerated rights)
  • 1966 – . State (Nicolaou) v A table Uchtála (constitutional only family based on marriage)
  • 1971 – . Byrne v Ireland (unconstitutionality State immunity in tort)
  • 1974 – McGee v Attorney General. (Marital integrity and contraception)
  • 1976 – The Búrca v Minister of Justice. (Equality)
  • 1979 – . East Donegal Co-operative v Attorney General (natural justice)
  • 1983 – . Norris v Attorney General (the criminalization of homosexuality be accepted) [18]
  • 1987 – Crotty v An Taoiseach. (Ratification of the EU Treaty)
  • 1988 – . Attorney General (Society for the Protection of the unborn child) v Open Door Counselling (information about abortion)
  • 1988 – . Webb v Ireland (non-survival of chronic powers)
  • 1989 – . Kennedy v Ireland (right to privacy)
  • 1992 – . Attorney General v X , more commonly the “X case” (abortion and risk of suicide)
  • 1993 – Attorney General v Hamilton. (Separation of powers)
  • 1993 – Meagher v Minister for Agriculture. (European Communities Act)
  • 1994 – Heaney v Ireland. (The doctrine of proportionality)
  • 1995 – Re regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Bill (supremacy written constitution)
  • 1995 – Re a court Ward (right to die)
  • 1995 – McKenna v. An Taoiseach (the referendum campaign finance)
  • 2001 – Sinnott v. Minister of Education (restrictions on the right to education)
  • 2003 – . Lobe and Osayande against Attorney General (deportation of the parents nationality)
  • 2006 – Curtin v. Dáil Éireann (the removal of judges)
  • 2006 – A. v. Governor of Arbour Hill Prison (unconstitutionality of a law does not retrospectively invalidate any action taken under it)
  • 2009 – McD against L. (established parental rights of sperm donors)

Sharing sovereignty

Today the Supreme Court shares his authority with two supra-national courts: the Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court (ECHR). In matters concerning the correct interpretation of EU law, decisions of the European Court of Justice has precedence over the provisions of the Irish Supreme Court.

The relationship between the Irish courts and the European Court is more complicated. The European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty is binding on the state of international law. But as a matter of Irish national law, the Convention is inscribed only in law, and not the status of the constitution.Under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights Act, adopted by the Oireachtas in 2003, ordinary law must where possible, be interpreted in accordance with the Convention. But the Irish courts the Convention must give way both clear legislative intent and any countervailing demands on the Constitution. Moreover, its provisions are not invoked as separate causes of action.

Supreme Court decision can not be appealed, as such, either the courts. The court hears cases referred to it by the Irish courts by a preliminary ruling and while unsuccessful litigants before the Supreme Court can apply to the European Court, not later Court decision does not mean that emptying the Supreme Court decision. As a matter of Irish national law decisions of the European Court does not automatically override the Oireachtas documents and may require legislative or perhaps even a constitutional referendum to be implemented in its entirety.

See also

  • List of Justices of the Supreme Court of Ireland
  • Supreme Court
  • Dail Courts
  • The Supreme Court of the Irish Free State
  • Judicial
  • History of Ireland
  • Abortion in Ireland
  • Philip Sheedy Affair


  1. Jump up ^ For example dissent was in Norris v. Attorney General , on the constitutionality of ss. 61 and 62 of the offenses against the person Act, 1861, while only a single judgment was given in the Buckley v. Attorney General , on the constitutionality iSinn Féin Funds Act in 1947.[17]



  • Kelly, John M.; Hogan, Gerard; Whyte, Gerard (2002). The Irish Constitution (4th edition ed.). ISBN 1-85475-895-0.
  • “Constitution of Ireland”. October 2015. Retrieved July 11, 2016.