• Improved access to justice and legal aid,
• Reform of the family law and family courts system,
• A plan to attract international competition to Ireland’s dysfunctional insurance market,
• Government support in promoting and positioning Ireland as a leading centre of international legal services, and
• Government commitment to a formal technical consultation period for important tax law changes.
Director General Ken Murphy says: “General Election 2020 will bring many challenges, but also opportunities.
“We are calling on the next Government to implement these key priorities when shaping the plan for the next Dáil and Seanad terms.”
Investment and reform
“Investment is needed in key areas of the legal system, particularly in legal aid, criminal legal aid and the family courts,” explained Mr Murphy.
“The solicitors’ profession looks forward to working with the Government on insurance issues – and being a part of the solution,” he said.
“We are also calling on the Government to develop a plan to attract international competition to Ireland’s dysfunctional insurance market.”
The Law Society statement points out that the Central Bank recently revealed that Ireland’s insurance industry generates operating profits of 9%, compared with 5% in Britain.
The director general added: “Britain has left the European Union, and Ireland now has an opportunity to position itself as a leading centre of international legal services. We are calling for continued support from the Government so that we can embrace these opportunities and grow Ireland as a legal hub.”
Ken Murphy said that the Law Society wanted to keep the momentum going to position Ireland at the forefront of international legal services.
“The Society looks forward to engaging with all elected representatives in the new Dáil and Seanad on these and other important issues in the next term,” he said.
Law Society President Michele O’Boyle says that the organisation is committed to championing the solicitors’ profession and providing a high standard of service to stakeholders and members of the public.
“Solicitors play an essential role in ensuring that the rights of citizens are protected and defended. The Law Society is proud to provide a strong voice in policy debate in order to inform decision-making on matters pertaining to the justice system and law reform,” Ms O’Boyle said.
The Law Society states that legal aid is an essential tool in ensuring access to justice – adding that equal and unrestricted access to legal advice for everyone is vital, particularly during detention.
In the past decade, legal aid has been put under enormous stress due to budget restrictions. It has become increasingly difficult for solicitors to provide consistent services because of this.
The Law Society points out that, as an EU Member State and under a recent EU directive, Ireland has an obligation to provide and enable access to justice through a functioning, properly-funded criminal legal-aid system.
It calls for a review of the legal-aid threshold to ensure equal and unrestricted access to legal advice for citizens during detention.
The Law Society is also calling for legislation placing the role of the solicitor attending Garda-station interviews on a statutory footing.
Family courts in crisis
The Society also says that the family courts are in crisis in Ireland. It urges the formation of a specialist division of family law courts and judges for more efficient case management.
It also calls for an increased emphasis on alternative-dispute-resolution approaches, with a bigger role for trained mediators, collaborative lawyers and arbitrators within the family-law process.
The Law Society also wants a firm commitment from the next Government on the development of the Hammond Lane Family Courts Complex in Dublin 7, which is currently stalled as budget discussions continue.
Tax change consultation
On looming key taxation changes, the Law Society is urging the Government to adopt a technical consultation period to ensure that adequate time is given to both practitioners and Revenue to consult properly.
It has repeatedly highlighted the need for input from representative bodies in the introduction of tax legislation, and particularly the Finance Bill, in order to avoid unintended consequences.
To view the Law Society’s statement, see: Law Society’s General Election Statement.