Irish Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal in Ireland was created by the Westminster Parliament under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 as the final appellate court within Ireland, then under British rule. Ultimate appeal from this court could be taken to the House of Lords in London.
The Lord Chancellor of Ireland was President of the Court of Appeal. As in England, the full-time judges had the title Lord Justice of Appeal. Other senior judges such as the Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, sat as additional judges of appeal when required.
The Irish Court of Appeal was replaced by separate Courts of Appeal in Northern and Southern Ireland, along with a High Court of Appeal for Ireland, hearing appeals from both, under the United Kingdom's Government of Ireland Act 1920. The High Court of Appeal for Ireland was short-lived, and only heard a handful of cases before being abolished under the UK's Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act 1922.
In the Irish Free State the Courts of Justice Act 1924 replaced the Court of Appeal in Southern Ireland with a Supreme Court of Justice under the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 by the Dáil, although a Court of Criminal Appeal was also established to hear criminal appeals that would have been heard by the Court of Appeal's Criminal Division.
A Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland was re-created under the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978.
During the first three decades of its existence, the reputation of the Court of Appeal was very high, arguably higher than that of any other tribunal in Irish legal history. Maurice Healy, writing in 1939, thought that the Court as it was constituted about 1900 "could compare with any college of justice in history". V.T.H. Delaney, writing in 1960, believed that every Irish barrister would choose the old Court of Appeal as representing the Irish judiciary at their best. This reputation depended on the quality of the individual judges: Christopher Palles is still often called " the greatest of Irish judges", and Gerald Fitzgibbon, Hugh Holmes and Lord Ashbourne were his intellectual equals. Inevitably, when these individuals were gone, there was a problem in finding replacements of equal calibre, and from about 1916, after the death of Fitzgibbon, and the retirement of Holmes and Palles, the reputation of the Court declined. In its last years, according to Healy, the judges were notable only for their constant quarreling among themselves, and in 1924 the new Irish Free State forcibly retired them.
- Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit Mercier Press Cork p.27
- Deaney, V.T.H. Christopher Palles Alan Figgis and Co. 1960 p.158
- Delaney p. 158
- Healy, pp.188-190