Ireland - Judicial system

Responsibility for law enforcement is in the hands of a commissioner, responsible to the Department of Justice, who controls an unarmed police force known as the civil guard (Garda Síochána). Justice is administered by a Supreme Court, a High Court with full original jurisdiction, 8 circuit courts and 23 district courts with local and limited jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the government.

Individual liberties are protected by the 1937 constitution and by Supreme Court decisions. The constitution provides for the creation of "special courts" to handle cases which cannot be adequately managed by the ordinary court system. The Offenses Against the State Act formally established a special court to hear cases involving political violence by terrorist groups. In such cases, in order to prevent intimidation, the panel of judges sits in place of a jury.

The judiciary is independent and provides a fair, efficient judicial process. The Supreme Court has affirmed that the inviolability of personal privacy and home must be respected in law and practice. This is fully respected by the government. Revelations about corruption by leading politicians forced the government to set up an independent tribunal. It investigated payments to politicians, especially to the former prime minister Charles Haughey, who was a recipient of large sums of money from businessmen for his personal use.

A former judge, Hugh O'Flaherty, was forced to resign from the Supreme Court over his handling of a dangerous driving case in 1999. His case provoked much public outrage after it was discovered that the government quickly boosted his annual pension prior to his resignation.

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