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Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 892 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn]  In sum, this Bill is a logical solution to the problem of unnecessary and cumbersome cross-border jurisdictional disputes centring on international transactions. It follows the success of the New York convention on arbitration and is to be welcomed. However, the continued inaction on establishing a judicial council and the historical offence of partition act in contradiction to it. Partitionist thinking continues to harm the Irish economy. While I have much respect for the Minister of State's approach to many issues, I was disappointed by his tweet, which he has since removed. As a man with a great fondness for County Monaghan, he should have a sense of the all-Ireland economy.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I was trying to criticise Tesco and it backfired badly.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I am sure the Minister of State will agree Monaghan poultry and Tyrone poultry are equally beautiful and one must promote the all-Ireland economy.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Rather, the Government should follow the economic principles that underlie this Bill and should facilitate the numerous small and medium-sized enterprises on this island that need to respond quickly and effectively to business opportunities without worrying about or searching for ways around the unnecessary and inefficient transaction costs associated with partition. To summarise, Sinn Féin supports this Bill with the caveats I have raised.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I again thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this new legislation, the Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015. Like many colleagues, I welcome the Bill but I also welcome this debate as all Members must promote international trade and investment through judicial co-operation. The legal system is a major part in any democratic society, but it must also have the support and confidence of the people. Trust and respect are also key elements, and without them, a society or state will not survive. One must accept this reality. Criminality and corruption can never be tolerated, and all types of cronyism must be rooted out. In the case of the justice system, a person should be promoted on merit and ability and not on the basis that he or she is a member or supporter of a political party. This is something which Ireland has not faced up to recently, although everyone must support reform, as this society needs equality and a fair justice system. I raise this point on the broader issue of this Bill, the Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill.

As for the legislation's details, the purpose of the Bill is to make provide for the measures which are required to ensure the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on choice of court agreements can function appropriately within the Irish legal system. The European Union has exclusive competence in respect of the matters governed by the convention and therefore Ireland will not be ratifying the convention in its own right. The convention was signed by the EU in April 2009, subject to its conclusion at a later date. As I noted earlier, confidence and trust at national and international level are crucial in any debate on judicial co-operation. One must also be vigilant and ensure that states involved have respect for human rights, and if there is any doubt or lack of trust on these issues, Ireland should not be afraid to stand up and make this point at European Union and international level. I am always suspicious of consensus politics on these important matters. One always should be willing to challenge doubts about corruption or criminality. Too many states do not do so or turn a blind eye to this type of carry-on. The convention provided for in this Bill above all is about promoting trade and investment. While I will revert to the legislation's details later, if one has doubts about a judicial and justice system, confidence in that state will dwindle and it will not lead to greater investment and trade. This is an economic reality we must face.

The purpose of the choice of court Bill is to provide the necessary measures for effective co-operation in respect of the 2005 Hague Convention. The aims of the convention are to promote international trade and investment through enhanced judicial co-operation. The convention seeks to do this by setting down rules to ensure that exclusive choice of court agreements between parties which are concluded in civil or commercial matters are enforced. Closer consideration of the Bill reveals that section 2 authorises the Minister for Justice and Equality to make certain orders regarding convention matters, most notably that a specified state is a state bound by the convention or that particular declarations or communications have been made. While such orders are in force, they will be of evidential value. I also raise these issues within the legislation's details.

Earlier, the Minister of State spoke of trade with Mexico and mentioned a figure about which many Members were pleasantly surprised. He stated that in 2014, €1.216 billion worth of trade with Mexico was conducted, which included soft drinks concentrate and chemical products. This figure and the fact that Ireland has such robust trading with Mexico should be highlighted in the context of our international trade and agreements with other countries. It also should be taken further and new ideas are needed in this regard. Other Latin American countries also should be targeted with Irish products, including Argentina, which has a massive Irish diaspora. I recently met a distant cousin who turned up from Argentina, and he told me that unbelievable numbers of people of Irish descent live in Argentina and we would be pushing an open door in respect of trade. Ministers and the Cabinet in general should keep an eye on this issue as there is huge potential there for markets. Another country that has been in the news recently is Cuba. It would be fantastic to develop Ireland's relationship with Cuba now that things are opening up and the United States has opened up an embassy there. As there is a Cuban ambassador to Ireland, this relationship should be developed with particular emphasis on small businesses. In addition, Ireland should make the point at international level that it is time to end the blockade of Cuba and to give these people a break. They are wonderful people who have many ideas and talents, particularly in respect of practical health care. Anyone who has visited Cuba will know that one will never see people on trolleys, for example. One can also see a primary medical care service, despite the embargo and the hammering the country has received over the past 50 or 60 years. We can learn from one another and I raise this point in respect of the legislation.

We are discussing international trade, international justice and international confidence. When discussing issues of justice, it is important to raise the case of Ibrahim Halawa. I met his sisters yesterday protesting outside the Dáil and I urge the Minister of State and the Government to contact the Egyptian authorities again regarding Ibrahim's case, because he has now been locked up for nearly two years without trial or any sign of one. This is not acceptable in any democratic society and I urge the Government in this regard. I raise this matter in the Chamber because yesterday, at the gates of Leinster House, I gave a commitment to his sisters I would do so.

To revert to the legislation and the convention, I refer to what is an exclusive choice of court agreement. An exclusive choice of court agreement is a written agreement, such as a contract, between two or more parties that contains a clause designating one or more specific courts in a contracting state, to the exclusion of all other courts, to hear a dispute regarding the agreement. The convention seeks to remedy this situation by providing a harmonised framework to promote greater legal certainty in cross-border trade. The three key obligations in the convention are that the court designated in the agreement must, subject to certain exceptions, hear the case, any other court must decline to hear the case and any judgment given by a court must be recognised and enforced in other contracting states. This is the precise point of the convention.

As for the Bill's principal provisions, they relate to the process for making an application for the recognition and enforcement of judgments in Ireland which originate from another contracting state to the convention, the enforcement of judgments under the convention in Ireland, the payment of interest on sums of money owed in judgments under the convention, and the proof and admissibility of judgments and related documents originating from other contracting states to the convention in Irish courts.

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