Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has defended the Government's decision to hold a referendum on the establishment of a new Court of Appeal.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said it makes no sense that the most basic appeals from the High Court go directly to the Supreme Court.

Mr Shatter said the new court "will ensure that the vast majority of appeals that come out of the High Court are finalised and dealt with at Court of Appeal level".

He said only "cases of general public importance or where some specific unusual legal issue arises" will go the Supreme Court.

However, barrister and law lecturer in UCD Paul Anthony McDermott said that while the idea of establishing a new Court of Appeal is generally good, there are already a lot of levels of courts in the legal system.

He said: "This proposal is putting in another layer and the idea is obviously to reduce delays and make the system more efficient, but in a legal version of scientific Boyle’s law, lawyers tend to fill the available space, so there must be a risk that if you create another layer of courts that it will result in more cases."

Law Society backs referendum

The professional and regulatory body for solicitors in Ireland has written to 11,000 solicitors urging them to vote in favour of establishing the new Court of Appeal.

The Law Society has said it would be failing in its duty to seek constant improvement in the administration of justice in Ireland if it remained silent on the matter.

The email also asks members to write to their clients and other voters recommending a Yes vote, but only if solicitors are "comfortable" and "feel it appropriate" to do so.