I’ve been lucky to have visited Ireland a few times in the past several years. From the unbridled majesty of the Cliffs of Moer, to the emerald hills of Kilarney, to the bustling streets of Dublin, everything about Ireland is pastoral and progressive at the same time.
Leave it to an international law geek like me to notice that even its judiciary reflects this unique mix. While holding strong to its English common law heritage, I found that Ireland is willing to abolish entire legislative codes that fail to keep up with modern jurisprudence.
Ireland Arbitration Act of 2010
In keeping with its progressive mandate, Ireland recently passed a new arbitration act that removes the distinction between domestic and international arbitration and creates a Swiss-style one-stop shop for post-award court proceedings.
The 2010 legislation includes the entire text of the United Nations Convention on International Trade Law Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (Model Law) and will be instantly recognizable to lawyers across the globe. The Arbitration Act of 2010 will apply the Model Law to all arbitrations in Ireland and do away with the historical distinction between domestic and international arbitration.
UNCITRAL Model Law
The UNCITRAL Model Law has been adopted by more than 50 countries and covers all stages of the arbitral process. While initially designed for international commercial arbitration in mind, other countries such as Germany, New Zealand and Kenya have extended it to domestic arbitrations. Ireland originally adopted the Model Law in the Arbitration (International Commercial) Act 1998, but only for international commercial arbitrations.
Key Revisions to Irish Arbitration Law
1. No Distinction Between Domestic/International Arbitrations
There will be no difference between the legislative provisions relating to domestic arbitrations and international arbitrations. Irish practitioners will need to be familiar with the Model Law and this will be particularly useful when advising on contractual arbitration clauses, particularly those which have an international dimension.
2. Judicial Intervention Virtually Eliminated
The Arbitration Act of 2010 abolished the ‘case stated’ procedure. Arbitrators will no longer be able to refer to the courts a question of law arising in the course of the arbitration. The removal of the case stated procedure and significant reduction of the scope for judicial intervention will likely to lead to an increased focus on the choice of arbitrators and appointment mechanisms and requirements.
3. Limited Award Challenges
The only method of challenging an arbitral award will be under Article 34 of the Model Law. The grounds are extremely limited and the 2010 legislation will make it far more difficult to challenge an arbitral award than was the case under the previous legislation. The Model Law grounds of challenge have been interpreted narrowly in other jurisdictions, and the Irish Courts are likely to adopt a similar approach, in keeping with their approach to arbitration generally*.
4. Cost Allocation
The 2010 legislation allows the parties to agree on the allocation of costs either before or after the dispute has arisen (Section 21). The previous legislation provided that any such agreement on costs was only binding if it was reached after the dispute had arisen.
Effective Date June 2010
The 2010 legislation will apply to all arbitrations which commence after the legislation comes into operation. The 2010 legislation comes into operation in June 2010, 3 months from the enactment date.
Trend to Watch: Look for a Precipitous Increase in International Commercial Arbitrations Taking Place in Ireland in the Next Several Years