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10/08/2015 12:00:00 AM


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Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán

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Bills

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Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 [Seanad]

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Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 [Seanad]\Second Stage
Bills\Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 [Seanad]\Second Stage

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Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 [Seanad]

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Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

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Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

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Snippet Contents:

I would like to thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate for the observations they made. I appreciate the welcoming and open atmosphere in which the discussions of this somewhat technical Bill have taken place. This reflects the fact that the legislation we are dealing with is not especially controversial in character, which is probably the reason I am speaking pretty much to myself in the Chamber.
Notwithstanding its technical nature, this Bill has a part to play in promoting and supporting Ireland as a successful trading nation. The development and maintenance of trade relations are, of course, important at any time but they are of particular importance to Ireland and the European Union as we emerge from past economic difficulties. As I said in my earlier intervention, legal certainty and predictability can contribute towards the progressive elimination of barriers to trade and can enable business and commercial relationships to flourish both within the EU and outside it. Commercial bodies need to be certain that they can readily enforce contracts and secure enforcement of judgments for what can be, in some cases, quite significant sums of money. In a small way, this Bill and the convention it implements can help to protect and promote Irish business interests abroad. Deputies will appreciate the fact that Ireland is a trade-dependent nation. The Choice of Court Convention creates legal certainty and predictability by establishing a framework for upholding choice of court agreements in cases that end up before the courts of countries bound by this convention. The guarantees offered by this framework should allow parties to trade with greater confidence than heretofore. While the legislation we are considering is mandated by our membership of the European Union, it is very much in our own interest to legislate in a progressive fashion in this area.
As Deputies may not be very familiar with the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, perhaps I could say a few words about that body. The Hague Conference is a body of long standing. It held its first meeting in 1893 and became a permanent intergovernmental organisation in 1955. Its 80 members are representative of all continents. In addition to the 28 member states of the European Union, and the European Union itself, its membership includes countries as diverse as China, Japan, Russia, Peru, Egypt, Monaco, South Africa and the United States of America. A melting pot of different legal traditions, it develops and provides support services for multilateral legal instruments which respond to global needs. An increasing number of non-member states are also becoming parties to the various Hague conventions and, as a result, the work of the conference encompasses more than 145 countries around the world. In addition to the type of commercial relationships encompassed by the Choice of Court Convention, personal and family disputes in more than one country are commonplace in the modern world. Faced with disputes which have an international element, courts will apply their private international law rules, and these rules may differ from country to country. The statutory mission of the Hague Conference is to work for the progressive unification of these rules. This involves finding internationally agreed approaches to issues such as jurisdiction of the courts, applicable law, and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in a wide range of areas, from commercial law and banking law to international civil procedure and from child protection to matters of marriage and personal status. Ireland is bound by eight Hague conventions and a protocol associated with one of those conventions, which cover areas as diverse as the civil aspects of international child abduction, protection of children and co-operation in respect of inter-country adoption, and the service abroad of judicial and extra-judicial documents in civil and commercial matters.
In conclusion, I would like to make the following points about the Choice of Court Convention and the regime which it applies. It is mainly intended as an optional worldwide judicial alternative to the existing arbitration system, which is also widely used by commercial parties. Its approval by the EU should reduce legal uncertainty for EU companies trading outside the EU by ensuring that choice of court agreements included in their international trading contracts are respected, and that judgments issued by the courts designated in such agreements will be eligible for recognition in the other countries that are contracting parties to the convention. The convention fills a void in the current international legal framework, as virtually no treaty relationships exist in this area between the individual member states and the EU's main trading partners. In this context, an impact assessment prepared by the Commission suggests that uncertainty regarding which court would resolve disputes was a factor taken into account when reaching significant business decisions, and the legal uncertainty in this area was identified as a potential barrier to trade. That assessment also noted that the vast majority of commercial contracts contain provisions which deal with dispute resolution and that a significant percentage of such contracts include an exclusive choice of court clause.
As I said at the outset, this Bill is largely an exercise in the promotion of legal certainty. There will be an opportunity on Committee Stage to explore these matters further. Once again, I would like to thank Members for their contributions to our discussions today.