The Chief Justice has said Ireland is at or near the bottom of the table for spending on justice, when compared with other countries with similar legal systems. Mr Justice Frank Clarke was speaking at the opening of a conference on access to justice.

Mr Justice Clarke said while there were many demands on resources at present, the Irish taxpayer spends significantly less on the justice system than in other countries while litigants face higher legal costs.

He said there was a strong case that the savings made could be spent helping those who struggle to afford legal representation.

The Chief Justice welcomed what he described as the Government's commitment to changes in the courts including a modernisation programme and provision for a review of civil legal aid.

The two-day conference entitled 'Access to Justice - Breaking Down Barriers' is being hosted by a working group set up in January 2021 to contribute to improving access to justice in Ireland.

The Chief Justice said a major theme of the two-day event - being streamed to participants across the country, will be to ask, how it can ensure that people have information to identify and address their legal problems in the first place.

It will also examine optimising alternative ways of resolving legal issues and how the court system might be made accessible to all.

Chairperson of the Legal Aid Board, Philip O'Leary, said access to justice is central to a free and democratic society, but for various reasons there are considerable obstacles which remain for many who have need for access to justice.

"I am hopeful that the analysis and views expressed during the course of this event will help to shine a light on the many remaining challenges in this area, and inform the forthcoming review of civil legal aid," he said.