The number of High Court judges is to increase by five under the General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, which has been approved for priority drafting.
The General Scheme includes amendments to provisions in court-related acts that will facilitate centralisation and automation of certain court offices and processes in relation to the:
- Intoxicating Liquor Acts,
- Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018,
- Land and Conveyancing Reform Act 2009, and
Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.
It also contains amendments to the:
- Legal Service Regulatory Act 2015,
- Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020,
- Bankruptcy Act 1988,
- Guardianship of Infants Act 1964,
- Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956,
- Immigration Act 2004,
- International Protection Act 2015,
- Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956,
- Judicial Council Act 2019, and
- Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976.
A number of practical reforms will also reduce the residency requirements for naturalisation for children born in the State, from five to three years.
The ‘continuous residence’ requirement for all those applying for naturalisation will now allow for total absences of up to 70 days from the State in the year preceding the citizenship application being made. Up to a further 30 days may also be allowed where necessitated by exceptional circumstances.
Minister Heather Humphreys said: “A key reform will facilitate the introduction of new legal partnerships, which will enable barristers and solicitors to jointly provide legal services for the first time, thereby offering a greater range of services and legal expertise to their clients.”
‘Cause for concern’
Commenting on the legislative changes being proposed James Browne (Minister of State for Law Reform, Immigration and Youth Justice) said: “I know it has been a cause for concern for some that children born in Ireland to non-Irish parents do not have an automatic entitlement to citizenship.
“We fully respect the change made by the Irish people in the 2004 referendum; however, we believe that providing a shorter pathway to citizenship is the right thing to do for these children
“The bill will also set out clear procedures that will apply where a citizenship application is made on behalf of a child.”
Minister Humphreys commented that the number of judges in the High Court was increasing by five, to ensure sufficient resources in areas of immediate need, including the pressures on criminal justice arising from COVID-19, and the issues arising in terms of strategic infrastructural development.
“It is one of the largest increases in judges approved in recent memory, and a very significant investment by the State in judicial resources,” she said.
A General Scheme of a Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was first approved for drafting in January 2020. The revised General Scheme includes 61 Heads, 32 of which are new.