View from the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary. (Photo by the author, on vacation in April, 2018.)

We’re not building rockets here.  But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky vessel means the cargo may not make it to its destination.  Serving process in Ireland is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.  To be sure, service in Northern Ireland is handled only a bit differently, as it’s part of  the United Kingdom, but not entirely differently– as such, what comes below is applicable in Northern Ireland as well.  Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are common law jurisdictions—just like the rest of the English-speaking world—so things work in a very familiar manner.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  1. Tap us on the shoulder for bespoke attention—and probably some amusing commentary to boot (see the upper right if you’re on a desktop, or way down below if you’re on a phone/tablet),
  2. Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of your forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
  3. If you’re feeling froggy & would like to handle the whole thing yourself, keep reading.  This lays out the framework you’ll need.

Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.

  • The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
  • The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
  • And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad.  In the North, you need a Hague Evidence Convention request, while in the Republic, you have to send a Letter Rogatory because Ireland is not party to the Hague Evidence Convention.  Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Now, for the chase scene.  Here’s how service is effected in Ireland:

Article 5 Service in THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

  • Historically, Ireland’s Central Authority has been all but non-functional.  This may have changed in recent years, but I have yet to see a client willing to take the chance.  My best suggestion… proceed directly to Door #3.*

Article 5 Service in NORTHERN IRELAND

  • Translate the documents. The UK’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires that documents be in English.  Game over, right?  Pack up and go home?  Not so fast, counsel… make sure your defendant speaks English, because his U.S. Due Process rights follow him, in a sense.  Anybody sued in a U.S. court must be served in a language they understand, so if they don’t speak English, translation is still necessary.
  • Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney.  If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
  • Send to the Central Authority.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely three or four months from submission to return of proof.
  • If your defendant is an individual, there is a significant chance that your Article 5 request will fail. The English Central Authority uses Royal Mail to carry service of process, and if the defendant doesn’t sign for the delivery… no dice.  You get a very pleasant notice from London inviting you to try again.

Article 10 alternative methods (both jurisdictions)

  • Mail service (Door #2) is available, depending on where you are, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
  • Service via private agent (process server) is available to U.S. litigants under Article 10(b)— your Door #3!  This is the only truly viable option for serving defendants in the Republic.   Absolutely critical—make sure to have the process server instructed by a solicitor, or the attempt to serve is ineffective, as it violates the both the Irish and the UK positions on Article 10.

Declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.

Bonus practice tip… if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client.  The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.


* I invite anyone who has successfully served through the Dublin Central Authority to let me know by email.  Really, I’d love to know if anything has changed.