The Irish Courts

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The Irish Courts are structured on a hierarchical basis and each has a process that must be adhered to throughout the course of the action. The processes involved for each of the main Irish courts are outlined below:

District Court (debts up to €6350).

1. Civil Summons served on debtor
•    official notice from the creditor of the nature of the claim
•    debtor does not respond
2. Affidavit of debt sworn by creditor
•    no Court hearing takes place so creditor swears the amount of the debt now due
3. Affidavit, Decree & Memorandum
•    filed in Court office
4. Judgment
1.    should be issued to creditor within 20 - 60 days

1. Civil Summons served on debtor
•    debtor does respond (see below 2)

2. Notice of Intention to Defend
•    submitted by debtor
•    date of court hearing fixed

3. Creditor and debtor put their cases to the judge orally under oath

4. If successful, the creditor will receive a judgement within 10 - 13 days after the hearing

Circuit Court (Debts between €6350 and €38, 092).

There is a Circuit Court in every Irish county


Similar to the District Court process. That is, if uncontested, no Court hearing takes place and a judgement issues on receipt of Affidavit of Debt in the Court office, sworn by the creditor


1. Civil Bill served on debtor
•    debtor does respond (see below 2)
2. Appearance submitted by Debtor
•    debtor acknowledges intention to contest the claim and a written 'Defence' should be registered in the Court office
•    Court often allows delay to allow time for the creditor or debtor to prepare their case
3. Notice of Trial
•    served by creditor, after receipt of debtor's Defence, advising date of Court which can be 2-5 months away, depending on court scheduling
4. Court hearing
creditor and debtor both make their case (orally under oath to the judge and judgement will issue if successful

High Court (Debts greater than €38,092) The High Court is based in Dublin


1. Summary Summons is served by person(s) or by ordinary post to the registered office of a limited company

If uncontested, no court hearing takes place and a judgment, or Fifa, issues in the same way as from the lesser courts

1. Summary Summons is served by personal service on a person(s) or by ordinary post to the registered office of a limited company
•    debtor does respond by entering an appearance
2. The creditor must apply for judgment to the master of the High Court by way of a Motion. The creditor and the debtor make their cases by Affidavit and the master may decide in favour of either. Alternatively, he may refer all or part of the claim to a High Court judge for hearing. This hearing may be on Affidavit again, or by way of a full trial with oral evidence


Interest can be claimed at the contract rate in any proceedings. However, where there is no contractual provision, the Court may award interest at its discretion. Also, for business to business contracts entered into after the 8th August, 2002, EU regulations now allow for interest to be charged on all late payments (after 30 days have lapsed) at a rate of interest linked to the European Central Bank (ECB) base rate. After judgment is awarded, interest is automatically applied to the judgment debt at the statutory rate, which is currently 8%.

Costs awarded to creditors vary depending on the amount due and the Court. They are generally low, unless the case is defended.

Post Judgment Options

To bring a judgment to the attention of the public at large it must be published. Judgments, once registered, are published in Stubbs Gazette and various commercial databases. StubbsGazette is widely read by bank managers, credit controllers, finance houses, etc.

The Sheriff
Each county in Ireland has a Sheriff who is a civil servant and whose responsibility is to seize and sell goods belonging to debtors in the discharge of debt. There can be long delays in this process and often the Sheriff can decide that the debtor has no goods worth seizing and selling. The Sheriff will NOT seize the tools of trade, or essential household items.

Instalment Order Process
(only applicable to individuals and not companies)

After judgment has been obtained in Court the relevant debtor can be called to attend at the District Court to be examined as to his/her means. The judge will decide the level of weekly/monthly debt payments the debtor can make and will usually make an Instalment Order directing the debtor to make the repayments. The repayments will commence once the order is served on the debtor. It is unusual for a District Court judge to give an Instalment Order against an unemployed debtor.

If the debtor does NOT make the repayments the creditor can go back to the District Court and seek to have the debtor committed to prison for non-payment (by Committal Order).


A Garnishee Order is an effective legal enforcement option, although this is dependent on the creditor having good intelligence on any monies due, but not yet paid, to the debtor. In such circumstances, the creditor can apply to Court for a Garnishee Order, directing that such monies are paid by the third party directly to the creditor.

Timing is important so that the third parties are advised of the Garnishee Order before the monies are paid to the debtor.

Receivership by way of Equitable Execution

This is a similar process to garnishee, except that the ultimate objective is for the creditor to receive the net sale proceeds of an asset belonging to the debtor. An example of this would be the sale of a car, land or house.

Under certain circumstances the Court may prefer to appoint a Receiver, where the creditor is unsure of how much money the debtor will receive.
Judgment Mortgage

Once the judgment has been obtained, the creditor can apply in Court to have a Judgment Mortgage registered on the deeds of the debtor's property. This effectively prohibits any dealings with that property, unless the relevant debt is

The creditor can take a further step and have the relevant property sold, so that the debt is discharged, by applying to the court for a Well Charging Order and Order for Sale of the property.

Winding up of a Limited Company

To pursue the repayment of a debt from a limited company one of the options open to the creditor is to wind-up the company. Such proceedings can be quick and effective and are often an additional inducement to the company to repay the debt, so that this serious sanction is avoided.

To avoid spurious defences and the disapproval of the High Court, it is advisable to obtain a judgment beforehand, or at the very least, a written confirmation from the debtor company admitting the debt.


When a creditor fails to have a debt repaid on foot of a judgment, one option open is to declare the debtor bankrupt. Again, this is a serious inducement for the debtor to repay, if they have the means to do so.

The creditor can seek to bankrupt an individual without a judgment from the Courts, though in practice many bankruptcy actions are taken where a judgment has been granted and returned 'nulla bona' (no goods) by the Sheriff.

Bankruptcy proceedings must be brought in the High Court and must involve debts over €1,905. Unlike similar procedures in England and Wales, bankruptcy proceedings in Ireland can be both costly and lengthy affairs.

Mareva Injunction

With good intelligence a creditor may apply to the court, in anticipation of their application for judgment, for a Mareva Injunction. This demonstrates that there is a likelihood that the debtor may dissipate assets, or act in such a way to defeat any future judgment.

If successful, the order handed down can relate to specific assets, or be of a more general nature, in that it might prohibit the debtor from reducing their assets below a certain level.

Glossary of Irish Legal Terms

Affidavit of Debt
A legal document confirming the debt due, that is sworn by the creditor to be true.

Response from debtor, who receives a summons, indicating that he intends to defend the case.

Chattel Mortgage
Mortgage registered on property other than land/ house. For example, cattle, an item of machinery, or a ship.

Civil Summons
District Court summons, to be served on debtor by the creditor, at the start of legal proceedings.

Civil Bill
Circuit Court summons, to be served on debtor by the creditor, at the start of legal proceedings.

Committal Order
Order of District Court committing the debtor to prison for failure to make debt repayments under the terms of an Instalment Order.

County Registrar
Circuit Court officer who issues default judgments and also acts as County Sheriff.

Court Costs
Costs fixed by Court to be paid by the debtor to the creditor by way of reimbursement for the legal expenses involved.

District Court judgment.

Circuit Court document, in which the debtor denies in writing that a debt is due and defending the claims made by the creditor.

Debtor's solicitor seeks copies of relevant documents in creditor's possession and vice versa.

Ex Parte Application
The creditor applies to Court for an order, but notice does not have to be given to the debtor.

Execution Order
Document to enforce a Circuit Court judgment.

Experian Gazette
Weekly publication listing, amongst other things, all judgments registered that week in Ireland.

Document to enforce a High Court judgment.

An official Land Registry document which describes a piece of land or property and the ownership, burdens thereon, etc.

Instalment Order
Order handed down by the District Court requiring a debtor to make debt repayments following the granting of a judgment.

Certificate of Judgment
•    document used to effect publication of a judgment.
Liberty to enter Judgment
•    the order which the Master of the High Court makes when confirming that a particular debt is due.
Memorandum of Judgment
•    the Court Officer's note confirming that a particular judgment has been granted.
Registration of Judgment
•    publication of a judgment.
Judgment Mortgage
A judgment that has been registered on deeds to immovable property. For example, deeds to a house, land, etc.

Judgment Mortgage Affidavit
Affidavit sworn by creditor to affect a Judgment Mortgage.

Judgment Interest
Statutory interest applied to all Irish judgment debts.

Land Registry
The government agency which records all deeds to property, with registered title, in Ireland.

Master of the High Court
Quasi-judicial official who adjudges on debt recovery cases that come before the High Court.

Master's Order
Order of the Master of the High Court normally giving liberty to enter judgment.

Document grounding application to the Circuit Court, the High Court, or the Master stating the creditor's desired objective.

Notion of Intention to Defend
Official response from debtor on receipt of District Court Civil Summons indicating his/ her intention to defend the case.

Notice for Particulars
Document frequently sent by debtor, or his/ her solicitor, to creditor requesting details of the relevant debt, invoice date, etc.

Document grounding application to Court in insolvency, company and related matters.

Plenary Hearing
Full trial of an action before a judge and with witnesses attending for both sides, to give evidence personally under oath.

One of the documents in a High Court judgment application by default.

Registry of Deeds
The official government agency which records all deeds to property with unregistered title, in Ireland.

Replies to Notice for Particulars
Document served by the creditor on the debtor, or his/ her solicitor replying to a Notice for Particulars.

Replying Affidavit
This is also a sworn legal document, in which the debtor will set out his side of the claim, denying that a debt is due and defending the claims made by the creditor.

Enquiries done in Land Registry, Registry of Deeds, Companies Office, etc. to see if a party owns property, or is a director of a company, etc.

Stubbs Gazette
Weekly publication listing, among other things, all judgments registered that week in Ireland.

Substituted (sub) Service
When a summons cannot be served in the way stipulated by the Court, the creditor can apply to the Court, by Ex Parte Application, to be allowed to serve the particular summons by ordinary prepaid post, or by some other means. This is known as a 'sub-service'.

Summary Summons
High Court summons to commence High Court action for debt recovery

Top Judgments Registered


Pure Fitout Associated Limited
Address: R/o Unit 1 Building 1, Central Park, Mallusk, Newtownabbey Co Antrim
Amount: €257,165.09


Room to Improve Building Services Limited
Address: R/o 29 Molesworth Close, Knocksedan, Swords, Co Dublin
Amount: €49,968.16


William Gray
Address: Feighcullen Farm, Feighcullen, Rathangan, Co Kildare
Amount: €29,535.44


Rory McAtavie
Address: 19 Wylies Hill, Ballybay, Co Monaghan
Amount: €28,138.31

Limited Company Notices


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