Ireland’s economic success is not ‘leprechaun economics’, says Attorney General

Government is keen to promote Ireland as location for international commercial dispute resolution, Dublin conference told

The Attorney General, Rossa Fanning, has rejected the “leprechaun economics” characterisation of Ireland’s economic success and said Ireland has been “transformed by globalisation”.

He made the remarks at the Dublin International Disputes Week 2023 conference, where he outlined the Government’s continuing support for attracting international commercial dispute resolution work to Ireland.

Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, has found itself at the confluence of multiple streams of commercial activity and inward investment, he said.

“While well-known detractors sometimes disparagingly characterise Ireland’s modern economic success as ‘leprechaun economics’, this [success] is not a mere illusion,” Mr Fanning said.


The phrase “leprechaun economics” was used a number of years ago by well-known US commentator Paul Krugman in relation to Irish economic growth statistics, which can be artificially boosted because of the presence here of the regional headquarter operations of large US multinationals.

“There is no doubt but that Ireland’s active participation in international trade and collaboration with successful businesses from all over the world has tangibly improved living standards and opportunities for its people as well as bolstering the public finances,” Mr Fanning said.

As a stable, English-speaking EU member state with a common-law system and multiple links to the US, Ireland is “uniquely positioned to combine market access with a familiar legal system and public administration”, he said.

The concentration of vital global industries in Ireland has allowed a vibrant and dynamic legal services sector to develop that has genuine expertise in managing everything from high-value commercial disputes to complex regulatory proceedings.

“Dublin is therefore fast becoming a location of choice for cross-border litigation and dispute resolution for international business.”

Mr Fanning outlined a range of ways in which the Government is supporting “the development of Dublin as a world-class centre for the resolution of disputes”.

These include the Ireland for Law strategy led by the Government. which includes input from his own office, the Law Society, the Bar Council, the IDA and the private sector.

“Its most recent event took place just last week in Mountain View [California] and San Francisco, where the delegation that travelled met American lawyers and American tech companies with the assistance of the consulate, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.”

The Government has also been directing increased resources to the courts including the appointment of more judges. Mr Fanning said he anticipated further appointments to the High Court and the Circuit Court “in early course”.

Measures are also being looked at to enhance the resolving of disputes outside of the courts through the use of mediation and arbitration, he said.

“The Government is now moving on to pursue further reforms to facilitate arbitration and the resolution of complicated cross-border disputes within the jurisdiction. These relate to third-party funding for arbitration.”

Historically, Irish law has not been disposed to third-party funding for litigation, but legitimate concerns in this area apply with less force to arbitration which, although supported in places by the courts, “is largely a system of contractually agreed private justice that does not generally impose the same burden on scarce court time and resources,” Mr Fanning said.

Legislation currently before the Oireachtas would, if enacted in its current form, facilitate such funding arrangements for international commercial arbitration.

The Government is conscious of the “significant opportunities” that exist in the area of international legal work and is anxious to take steps to “allow this vibrant sector of Ireland’s increasingly international economy to flourish”, Mr Fanning said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent