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In January 2010 in Case C-456/08 the European Court of Justice found that Order 84A of the Rules of the Superior Courts was not in accordance with Article 1(1) of Directive 89/665.

The Commission had taken proceedings against Ireland over a failure by the National Roads Authority and the terms of Order 84A of the RSC.

Ireland lost on both points. The ECJ condemned Order 84A on the grounds it;

“..gives rise to uncertainty as to which decision must be challenged through legal proceedings and as to how periods for bringing an action are to be determined..”

The ECJ judgment recites a plea by Ireland that:-

“.. to date, no Irish court has dismissed, as being out of time, any action challenging a decision of a contracting authority made in the course of a public contract award procedure which was brought within the three-month limitation period but not at the earliest opportunity”.

Factually, this seems wrong, or economical with the facts.

In Danninger v Bus Atha Cliath and Deepdrill Developments Ltd. [2007] IEHC, the court recited the following:-

“Leave was sought to commence judicial review proceedings on 23rd May, 2006, approximately six weeks after the formal notification of the of the award of the contract to the notice party.”

– and then ruled on a plea that the Applicant was late, in these terms:-

“I would not hold that time began to run as and from the 3rd January, 2006, when the tender documents were received, because I would regard it as reasonable that legal advice might be obtained in relation thereto. One month seems to me to be more than adequate time in which to seek such advice. Given that there is both an opportunity and, pursuant to O. 84A an obligation, to bring proceedings “at the earliest opportunity”, I would hold that an interim application should have been made shortly thereafter. That interim application would have challenged clause 4.14 of the tender conditions and should have sought interlocutory relief.”

In Danninger the applicant applied for Judicial Review six weeks after losing the tender application process. That was within the three months time limit for applications. The court ruled that time commenced against the applicant not from the ending of the tender process but from the time the applicant knew, or ought to have known, of the grounds upon which it ultimately made its application.

That was a date (as found, by estimate, by the court) to be 3rd February 2006.

That meant that time expired on 3rd May 2006. Thus, 23rd May 2006 the date of the application to court, was twenty days too late. The court however, did not rule that the time had expired for that reason; it ruled it had expired on 3rd February 2006 because the applicant had not applied “at the earliest opportunity”.