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On the Assessment of the Operation of EU Law in the Irish Courts since Accession

Elaine Fahey

The preliminary reference mechanism is unequivocally the most successful tool of the Court of Justice which it has used to shape the constitutional evolution of EU law in the national courts. However, various proponents of leading studies of its use (eg Stone Sweet & Brunnell: 1995, Alter: 2001) have omitted in their datasets smaller Member States such as Ireland, on account of quantitative insignificance. Moreover, the comparison of preliminary reference data with infringement action data and population size often leads to inconclusive results and some data sets make similar omissions (Golub: 1996; Fenger & Broberg: 2011). Low rates of preliminary references from the Irish courts over approximately a 40-year period, low intervention rates in litigation before the Court of Justice and poor compliance rate of implementation of internal market legislation until recently has characterised the relationship between Ireland and EU law, suggesting distinct trends (Fahey: 2007, 2010). However, the Irish judiciary is overwhelmingly pro-communautaire inmatters of EU law. Key legal doctrines such as supremacy and direct effect were embraced from the outset of membership.The paper considers methods for assessing the casestudy of Ireland, as a small-size Member State and assesses data since accession on preliminary references, as well as the operation of EU law in the Irish courts over a comparable period.

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