Sunday 24 March 2019

Agreement will see Ireland handling major international arbitration cases

Deal: Seamus Woulfe, attorney general, signed the agreement on behalf of the Government
Deal: Seamus Woulfe, attorney general, signed the agreement on behalf of the Government
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Major international legal disputes are set to be decided upon in Dublin following the signing of an agreement between the Government and the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

The agreement is a significant boost to efforts to make Dublin a centre for dispute resolution post-Brexit.

Under the agreement, high-level cases, where at least one side is a state or state-owned entity will go to arbitration at the Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre (DDRC), located in the Distillery Building on Church Street. Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes outside the courts, where both sides agree to be bound by the decision of an arbitrator.

Cases handled by the PCA are often both prestigious and politically sensitive.

High-profile PCA cases in recent times have included arbitration between China and the Philippines over disputed waters in the South China Sea, and between India and Pakistan over access to river waters.

The agreement was signed on Tuesday by Attorney General Seamus Woulfe SC, on behalf of the Government, and PCA secretary general Hugo Siblesz.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said it provides a basis for PCA activities, in particular high-level international arbitration, to take place in Ireland.

"Ireland has a huge amount to offer as a venue for international arbitration. Our legal system is highly respected internationally," he said.

"Post-Brexit we will be the only fully common-law, English-speaking country in the EU. We also benefit from a geographic location and transport links that make Ireland very accessible from Europe, North America and further afield."

Traditionally cities such as London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Stockholm and New York have been regarded as seats for arbitration. However, newer places, such as Singapore, have also been quite successful in attracting such work.

DDRC board member and barrister Colm Ó hOisín SC said that should Ireland attract some high-profile cases this would be noticed internationally and would help build up the country's profile.

While the commercial courts in London are expected to lose much international dispute work due to concerns over the future enforcement of UK judgments in the EU, the same issue does not affect arbitration, where recognition is governed by the New York Convention.

However, Mr Ó hOisín said Brexit still offers opportunities for Dublin as sentiment may make people less likely to hold arbitration cases in London.

"Clearly, London will remain an important centre. There is a huge volume of work going through there, but I don't think it is unreasonable that some of that work will move. Even a relatively small percentage of that work moving to Dublin would be very significant," he said.

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