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Park Bye-laws?

The Courts Service has issued information on what it means to go to court as a witness.

Good luck to them.

It’s a pity they don’t seem to have done the same for parties to litigation.

Given that they are close to the persons who make up the Rules Committee of the Superior Courts, they will be unlikely, currently or in the future, to direct any criticism or complaint at the work of the Committee.

The Rules determine what the experience of going to court will be like.

The Committee, in effect, makes the Rules of the Superior Courts; the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has a nominal role but he, I venture, is busy elsewhere when the Rules get changed. (I could be wrong; perhaps it is a State secret, and the Committee does the bidding of the Minister).

In any event, the Courts Service will not be looking askance at any practice or procedure under the Rules.

The Committee is one example of bodies that, in effect, make and promulgate law. The Rules are published in the form of Statutory Instruments. Statutory Instruments are generally seen as “secondary legislation”. “Primary legislation” is to be found in the Acts of the Oireachtas. The Acts often make provision for detailed regulations to be made, “fleshing out” the bones of the particular Act. To be lawful the “regulations” must not go beyond the terms of the Act; they must express the “policies and purposes” of the Act.

The reason for this lies in the Constitution. Only the Oireachtas has the power to make law. Nevertheless, there are on occasion instances where “secondary legislation” is in fact “primary legislation”. Regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972 (as amended) have this status.

Most “secondary legislation” takes the form of a statutory instrument.

The European Communities Act 1972 aside, “ordinary” statutory instruments become law after, notionally, having been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

This is an antiquated procedure to give the validity or endorsement of the Oireachtas to the instrument. Given the fact that the Executive dominates the Oireachtas with regard to primary legislation, the idea that the Oireachtas might even notice the statutory instrument being “laid” is a delusion.

Consequently, a vast body of law is promulgated every year and is open to challenge, in effect, only by Judicial Review proceedings in court.

FLAC has just issued a condemnation of the fact that, in Ireland, access to justice is denied many due to lack of resources. Free legal aid is available only to a limited number of people and for a limited number of issues.

Challenging the State in Judicial Review (particularly the Rules Committee of the Superior Courts) is definitely, practically, off that list of issues.