Supreme Court of Ireland

Introduction

The Supreme Court is the highest court in Ireland and the court of final appeal. It usually sits in the Four Courts in Dublin.

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice, who is President of the Court, and 9 ordinary judges. The President of the Court of Appeal and the President of the High Court are additional judges of the Supreme Court. Read more about the Irish courts system.

Generally, appeals to the Supreme Court are heard and decided on by 5 judges. However, the Chief Justice can direct that any appeal or other matter is heard and decided on by 3 judges or, in exceptional cases, by 7 judges. The exception to this is matters relating to the Constitution, which must be heard by a minimum of 5 judges.

COVID-19 update

Following the Government’s decision to move the country to Level 5 of the Plan for living with COVID-19, court business has been reduced. You can access the latest announcements on court sittings on the Courts Service website.

Functions of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has the following functions:

  • It hears appeals from the Court of Appeal if the Supreme Court is satisfied that:
    - the decision involves a matter of general public importance, or
    - in the interests of justice it is necessary that there is an appeal to the Supreme Court
  • It hears appeals from the High Court if the Supreme Court is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances that call for a direct appeal to it. The Supreme Court must be satisfied that:
    - the decision involves a matter of general public importance, or
    - it is in the interests of justice
  • It is a constitutional court, as it is the final decision-maker in interpreting the Constitution of Ireland
  • It can end the President's term of office, if 5 Supreme Court judges or more decide that a President has become permanently incapacitated
  • It can check the constitutionality of a Bill referred to it by the President, that has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas

Ruling on the constitutionality of a Bill

Where the President refers a proposed Bill to the Supreme Court it is heard before 7 judges. A barrister represents the Office of the Attorney General, arguing the Bill is constitutional and should remain as it is. The Court appoints another barrister to set out the reasons why the Bill is unconstitutional and should not be enacted.

In cases examining whether or not a Bill is constitutional, the Supreme Court makes one decision and this decision is final. If the Court finds that the Bill is contrary to the Constitution, it cannot be enacted into law as it stands.

Further information

Further information on the Supreme Court is available at supremecourt.ie.

You can also contact the Supreme Court Office.

Supreme Court Office

Supreme Court Office
Four Courts
Inns Quay
Dublin 7

Tel: + 353 1 888 6568
+ 353 1 888 6569
E-mail: supremecourt@courts.ie

Page edited: 4 March 2021