The UK-based Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) is prepared to challenge the Irish Department of Justice in the courts when a ban on solicitors advertising for personal injury cases reaches the Irish statue book.
Irish Justice Minister John O'Donoghue plans to push the proposed measure through parliament before the summer recess. The Solicitors (Amendment) Bill 1998 prohibits "advertising expressly or by implication referring to claims for damages for personal injury" and has the support of both opposition parties and the Law Society of Ireland.
The legislation has been prompted by an avalanche of claims against the Department of Defence by former and serving members of the Irish Army for hearing damage, allegedly caused by a lack of adequate ear protection while on duty.
According to the Department of Justice, the claims could cost the taxpayer as much as Ir£1.5bn.
One of O'Donoghue's spokesmen said that the proposed legislation was intended "to stop people being induced by solicitors to make claims".
But Dublin solicitor and regional Apil co-ordinator John Schutte, whose firm deals solely with "no win, no fee" personal injury claims, warned that the legislation would be challenged in the courts as soon as it reached the statute book.
The challenge, he said, would be made either by Apil on behalf of its 25 Irish members or by individual Irish solicitors.
He claimed the legislation was unconstitutional in that it sought to restrict the public's right to seek redress for personal injury.
Schutte also attacked the Law Society of Ireland for "selling out" by giving its support to the legislation.
The society's director general, Ken Murphy, said it was difficult to argue that the advertising complained of was not a factor in the increased volume of personal injury claims over the past 10 years.