Irish Law Reports

The primary source of common law is written judgements of the higher courts, the High Court and the Supreme Court. Selected written judgments of the higher courts are published in hardback volumes of law reports. They are usually published on a weekly or monthly basis and are republished or bound in hardback bound volumes, published several times a year.

Law reports are cited in a manner, established by their publisher.  Cases in law reports are usually cited, with the year, then a reference to the series of volume and finally the page number or case number. Ryan v The Attorney General [1965] 1 I.R. 294. The premier printed series of Irish law reports is the “Irish Reports”, which have been published since 1865. They are published by Irish Council for Law Reporting.

Private Series

The Irish Law Reports Monthly, which is the other major series of Irish law reports, commenced publication in 1981 and are published by Westlaw. They are cited I.L.R.M. e.g Kavanagh v. Governor of Mountjoy Prison [2002] 2 I.L.R.M. 81. They succeeded the Irish Law Times and Solicitor\’s Journal.

The Irish Law Times Reports were published between 1867 to 1980. The series is cited by the  Volume Number, “I.L.T.R.” and the page number; e.g. Monaghan Board of Health v O’Brien 69 I.L.T.R. 239. The Irish Law Times reports formed part of the Irish Law Times and Solicitors Journal.  The Law Report appeared in the second part of the volume.

From the First World War until the late 1980s, the Irish Reports were published in a single annual volume. Since then, the number of cases formally reported has increased significantly.  The Irish Reports and the Irish Law Reports Monthly are now published annually in up to four volumes.  Both are now published online by Justis and West Law.

The Irish Jurist is an academic journal which published reports between 1935 and 1965. Unusually, it reported many Circuit Court decisions. They are cited in the style [1963] Ir Jur Rep 123. The Irish Times formerly published judgements on Monday,  for a number of years. They were formally reported by Barristers, and accordingly enjoyed the status of a law report, which could be cited in Court.

A number of smaller specialist series of law reports are or have been published in Ireland from time to time. The Employment Law Reports commenced in 1989 and are specialist volumes on employment law in Ireland.  They are cited “ELR”. The Irish Tax Reports (Ir. T.R.) have been published taxation reports since 1923. The Irish Family Law Reports have been published since 1996.

Many important Irish Court decisions,  prior to the late 1990s,  were not formally reported. Many so-called “unreported cases” of the High Court and the Supreme Court are never published in the Irish Reports or other official series of law reports. They were prepared in unbound stapled typed-up form and made available in the principal academic and professional libraries only.  They are usually cited by the name of the case, the court and report of the date e.g.   [ ]Unrep

Written judgements setting out principles of law are relatively unusual in the Circuit and District Courts. In the vast majority of Circuit and District Court cases, an order only is made. A brief verbal judgment may be made, either immediately, or later, if reserved. The occasional Circuit Court written judgment is published in the legal journals or specialist reports such as the Irish Law Times, and the Employment Law Reports

On-Line Reports

A number of subscription-based, electronic series of law reports have become available since the mid-1990s. The principal commercial services are LexisNexis, Westlaw and Justis who provide legal databases with legislation, cases law and other legal materials. Each is part of an international group which publishes law reports in the UK and other common law jurisdictions.  The services publish new judgments as they appear.

Westlaw publishes the Irish Law Reports Monthly, Irish Law Times, Employment Law Reports online. Justis publishes the Irish reports since 1838. LexisNexis also publishes historical Irish Reports. Each also provides a vast amount of UK law reports as well as legal books, journals and other legal materials online. The subscription price offered depends on the extent of the material made available. First Law is an Irish subscription-based online publisher of a range of legal information, which has been available since 1999. It included reports and other decisions of the courts as well as statutory instruments acts and other information.

The advent of the Internet has radically changed the availability of law reports. Most written judgments, given since 1996 are now available free of charge online. The Courts Service website has provided access to judgements of the higher courts since the late 1990s online.  They are available at courts .ie.

BAILII the British and Irish Legal Information Institute maintains a vast database of legal material which includes most British and Irish written judgments since 1996 together with most statutes and statutory instruments. It contains links to international databases including the scanned copies of the pre-1865 English Reports. It publishes a growing body of older important cases. It operates on donations and is available free of charge..

Modern Law Reports

In the first  part of the 19th century, a number of commercial Irish Law reports commenced  publication.  They included the Irish Equity Reports, the Irish Common Law Reports, the Irish Law Reports, Law  Recorder and the Irish Chancery Reports.  Several of these series, commencing in 1838 are now available on on a subscription basis.  Some of the earlier reports have been scanned by US libraries and are available on Google Books.

The Irish Council for Law Reporting has established in 1866, the same year as the English equivalent.  It is made up of representatives of the legal professions and the judiciary.  It publishes the Irish Law Reports. It is the official Irish law report. The judgements are reviewed by the judge who wrote and delivered them.

In modern law reports, the judgement is preceded by a headnote prepared by a practising barrister.  It may also contain a summary of the arguments of counsel, also prepared by the reporter. The headnote is not part of the decision and is not authoritive.  Its purpose is to summarise the key facts and the decision. On top of the headnote, there is usually a number of keywords, which allows for ready classification of the subject matter of the case.

Between 1866 and 1894, the Irish reports were published in two series; the Irish Reports, Common Law Series, cited [1875] IR 7 CL 11 in the Irish Reports, Equity Series, cited 1871 IR 5 Eq 23. Following the merger of common law and equity by the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1877, the Law Reports were fused into a single reporting series cited as part of the [1881] 8 LR 23.  In 1894, they became the Irish Reports and have been cited in the style 1897 2 IR 24, since then.

Neutral citations

Since 2004, Irish judgments carry a neutral citation. The neutral citation forms part of the title of the case and is written after the names and descriptions of the parties. In the High Court, the neutral citation will be in the form [2011] IEHC 1. For the Court of Criminal Appeal the citation will read [2012] IECCA 25 and for the Supreme Court, the citation reads [2012] IESC 25. The year is contained in square brackets and that there are no full stops between the letters IEHC, IECCA or IESC.

Most Irish judgments since 1996 are available on line. In addition to the commercial providers, BAILII publish Irish as well and UK cases on line within a few weeks of being delivered., the Courts Services official website, publishes judgments within days of being approved. Both reflect the judgment has written by the judge. Neither has headnotes nor  arguments of Counsel.

Searching and Researching

The advent of the above electronic series of law reports, in particular, Justis and Westlaw facilitate searching of law reports and other legal materials  by reference to keywords.  Various types of searches can be undertaken.

A number of keywords can be specified and searches can be made on the basis of each word or alternative words appearing in a particular case. Keywords may be searched by reference to their proximity to other keywords.

The traditional way to searching for case law, is through the use of digests and other indexes. There is no single comprehensive digest of Irish cases.  Digests have been published, introduced periodically over the last 150 years in Ireland.


The digests comprise the headnotes of reported cases organised under various topics.  The Irish Digest had been published by  various publishers, up to 1999. They incorporate the headnotes of the cases in the Irish Reports, the  Northern Ireland Reports, Irish Law Report Monthly, the Irish Jurist and the Irish Law Times Reports.

The principal digest cover the  following periods.

  • 1838 to 1867 [equity cases.]
  • Digest of Common Law of Ireland (1865)
  • Irish Law Reports Digest 1867 to 1893
  • Irish Digest, 1894 to 1918.
  • Irish Digest 1919 to 1928
  • Irish Digest 1928 to 1938
  • Irish Digest 1839 to 1948
  • Irish Digest 1949 to 1958
  • Irish Digest 1959 to 1970
  • Irish Digest 1971 to 1983
  • Irish Digest 1984 to 1988
  • Irish Digest 1989 to 1994
  • Irish Digest 1994 to 1999

There have been other occasional indexes to reported decisions from time to time.  An index of unreported judgements in the period 1966 to 1975, was published by Irish Association of Law Teachers and is referred to as the Green Index.  The Index of Irish Superior Court Written Judgements 1976-1982 is referred to as the Red Index. The Index of Superior Court judgements 1983 to 1989 is referred to at the Blue Index.


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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