Ireland: Is The Irish Court Of Appeal Becoming Stricter On Delay?

Legal proceedings in the civil courts in Ireland have historically had a poor reputation for delay. The time limits provided by the Court rules, unlike in England and Wales, are regularly ignored without serious consequences. Applications to strike out proceedings because of delay are often brought by frustrated defendants. Where the decisions are appealed, these are now heard by the Court of Appeal. How has it addressed the issue of delay?

Prior to October 2014, parties often waited more than four years for an appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court. There was a certain irony where appeals were brought in cases alleging delay in the proceedings. However, the new Court of Appeal is now starting to deal with the backlog. The Judges are adopting an approach which has led to some viewing the Court as a “colder place” than the Supreme Court. However, this does not mean that all cases are automatically struck out where there was found to be “inordinate and inexcusable delay” – the starting point for any application.

Strike Out for Delay? No

In Colm Granahan t/a CG Roofing1  the appellant appealed a High Court order striking out his claim for delay.  Amazingly, the judgment on an “expedited” appeal was handed down by Ms. Justice Mary Irvine on 12 March 2015, a mere four months after the High Court decision under appeal.  Parties can no longer “kick it into touch” by issuing an appeal and hope that the other party will lose interest, or run out of funds, before the appeal ever comes on for hearing.

Ms. Justice Irvine agreed with the High Court Judge that there had been inordinate and inexcusable delay.  The Court was quite clear that “the primary responsibility for moving a case forward rests with the plaintiff.”  The Court of Appeal then considered the next step in the application – where the balance of justice lay.  A party has a constitutional right of access to the court.  This must be balanced against the prejudice suffered by the defendant arising from the delay.  The prejudice claim related to the unavailability of witnesses.  The Court did not accept that a witness who had left the party’s employment, or who had moved out of the jurisdiction, was automatically unavailable to give evidence.  The Court of Appeal weighed in the balance the same evidence heard by the High Court Judge and found in favour of the appellant. 

However, the Court warned the Plaintiff to move quickly to protect himself from another application to strike out.

Strike Out for Delay? Yes

In contrast, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision to strike out for delay in Tom Tanner v Aidan O’Donovan & Ors2.   The facts out of which the claim arose took place in 1998/99 but by 2009 the case had not been set down for trial and the Defendants applied to strike out.  The High Court struck out the proceedings in October 2010 and the Plaintiff appealed.  Since then, the case had been waiting for hearing in the Supreme Court.  The case was transferred to the Court of Appeal in October 2014 and the Court of Appeal gave judgment in February 2015.

Once again, the Court of Appeal found that the delay had been inordinate and inexcusable – the essential starting point. 

In the next step – a consideration of the balance of justice – the Court acknowledged that “the courts have traditionally been reluctant to strike out claims of this kind on the grounds of undue delay, since this necessarily impinges on the litigant’s right of access to the courts.”

The claim arose from an oral contract, the terms of which were in dispute.  The court pointed out that in assessing the balance of justice, it must take into account the plaintiff’s obligation to proceed promptly if he is slow to start the proceedings.  However, it must balance that with the “impact on the professional reputation and good name of the defendants”.   The Court acknowledged that the “very existence of such proceedings could in itself potentially impact on those reputations”.  The Court noted that the Constitution implies that claims of this kind should be heard and determined within a reasonable time.

On the facts of this case, the Court of Appeal found that the balance of justice weighed in favour of the Defendants so that the case should be struck out.


Since these appeals have different outcomes, what can we conclude about the Court of Appeal’s approach to delay?  Most significantly, appeals are being heard within a reasonable time period.  Also, the Court of Appeal is clearly very aware of its constitutional obligations “to bring to an end the culture of delays in litigation.”  However, ultimately, it is for the judges to “judge” how the scales are going to tip in the fine balance of justice between the parties.


1.  Colm Granahan t/a CG Roofing and General Builders v Mercury Engineering[2015] IECA 58

2.  Tom Tanner v Aidan O’Donovan and Elaine O’Donovan and Timothy P Murphy[2015] IECA 24

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
29 Oct 2019, Workshop, Dublin, Ireland

Our second in-depth training session of 2019 for Company Directors will take place on Tuesday 29 October in our offices on Barrow Street.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions