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Words, words, words

The new Chinese year, just commenced, is the Year of The Horse. We lost a lot when the horse ceased to be a major source of power and transport. Prior to that, practically everybody personally knew the meaning of phrases like; “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted” or “live, horse, and you will have grass”. We even knew what a cock-horse was.

This knowledge shielded us from official obfuscation. No bulletin, however mendacious in its departure from the truth, could succeed when it referred to horses.

Not so in the case of modern transport.

We do not immediately apprehend the essential facts of an accident involving a large ferry taking to sea with its bow doors open, as happened in the ironically named “Herald of Free Enterprise”.

What a perfect metaphor, for Ireland in the Tiger Economy, that ship was. I am arguing for the case where our own domestic world can tell us about some other world without fail. In such a case we are protected from the abuse of words like “independent”, in the sense of “an independent judge” or “an independent arbiter”. Often, even identical twins would qualify as “independent” (of each other) in those senses, where simply being a discrete sentient being would qualify you.

One day, soon, we are going to need to rely on an independent judge. That judge will have to decide if Ireland is a “forum non conveniens” to hear a slew of personal injury actions arising from an aircraft accident. The accident could take place anywhere; all that is needed is that Ireland should have a connection with the people injured, or the company running the airline, or the company maintaining the aircraft or, even, be the place where the accident occurred.

For a plaintiff, Ireland is not the first choice of forum. We make plaintiffs write a claim letter within 2 months of the accident. We make them apply to the Injuries Board, where they are urged to proceed without the benefit of legal assistance. We steadfastly insist that personal injury victims must stand alone; they must not be allowed to act collectively. We insist that they lose their case if they are too slow and fail to litigate within the absurdly short period of two years of the accident. We make them describe, in excruciating detail, the documents they say they need disclosure of by the defendant, to win their claim. We make them prove the relevance of those unseen documents. If some of those documents are in the possession of a third party (a regulator, say) we make them pay for the production of those documents “up-front”.

Enough said; Ireland is forum non conveniens.