Advanced Diploma in Quasi–Judicial Decision–Making

Course available through blended / online distance learning.

The range of entities making independent decisions over a multiplicity of complaints, disputes and entitlements is ever–increasing. Tribunals, adjudicators, disciplinary panels, ombudsmen and a gamut of appeals bodies are keystones of both public and, to a growing extent, private administration in Ireland. These quasi–judicial decision–makers walk an often tricky line between procedures adapted to their area of dispute resolution, the need for efficiency and speed, and the dominant requirement of due process.

Programme Aims and Learning Outcomes

This course aims to equip participants with the practical skills required to discharge the quasi–judicial decision–making processes. In particular, participants will: 

  • Develop strategies to ensure fair hearings in a range of malleable and often unpredictable contexts;
  • Develop principled approaches to ensure that all parties are properly heard through the eliciting, parsing, probing and evaluating of relevant evidence;
  • Hone skills to bolster the decision–maker’s actual and perceived independence and to instil confidence in the process over which they preside;
  • Develop a thorough understanding of the extent and limits of their role and powers;
  • Develop strategies to manage the dynamics of a hearing, including where vulnerable witnesses or an imbalance of legal representation arises;
  • Acquire the ability to judge when adjournments (and other procedural requests) should and should not be granted;
  • Hone analytical and writing skills to ensure robust, adequately reasoned decisions;
  • Critically evaluate and implement due process requirements in diverse and dynamic hearing contexts, allowing participants to implement ongoing organisational and personal improvements in practice.

Course Content and delivery

Coordinated by Tricia Sheehy Skeffington BL, this course will be delivered by top experts in the field, including:

  • The Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice
  • The Hon Ms Justice Mary Irvine, Judge of the Supreme Court
  • The Hon Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, Judge of the Court of Appeal
  • The Hon Ms Justice Mary Faherty, Judge of the High Court
  • Paul Anthony McDermott SC
  • Mary Rose Gearty SC
  • Kevin Duffy BL, Former Chair of the  Labour Court
  • Niall Nolan BL
  • Bindi Dholakia, Psychologist, Fairway Group
  • Sunniva McDonagh SC
  • Siobhán Phelan SC
  • Barry Magee, Associate at Fieldfisher Solicitors and former Chair of IPAT
  • Dr Mary Phelan, Dublin City University

Delivery is part–time over six weekends (Friday evenings and Saturdays) at intervals throughout the academic year, commencing Autumn 2019. Lectures from high calibre experts in judicial and quasi–judicial decision–making will be complemented by tutorials which will enable participants’ close focus and honing of skills most relevant to their own decision–making context. A panel event on managing challenging or vulnerable witnesses will be held before evening dining in the King’s Inns, which participants will be also invited to attend.

While lectures and tutorials will be the primary delivery method and attendance is preferred, blended options and e–learning components will be included across as many elements of the course as is practicable.

Programme Modules:

Most lectures will be recorded and students will be able to stream these recordings at a time of their choosing, dependent on their internet access. However, some lecturers will require attendance in person. Supplementary materials will be provided online in a participatory forum established to support students’ learning. Attendance is preferable at all sessions, but in particular at unrecorded lectures, tutorials, workshops and round–table events.

Course Start Date: Friday 11 October 2019

Application Deadline: Applications for 2020/2021 will open in April.

Please note that this is a provisional schedule.

Weekend 1. 11th and 12th October 2019

Principles of due process:

  1. Overview of quasi–judicial landscape in Ireland (Lecture) – The Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice
  2. Ensuring Due Process pre–hearing (Lecture) – Siobhán Phelan SC
  3. Ensuring Due Process during the hearing (Lecture) – Kevin Duffy BL, former Chair of the Labour Court
  4. Source of decision–maker’s powers (Lecture) – The Hon Ms Justice Mary Faherty, Judge of the High Court
  5. Tutorial presenting and critiquing procedural rules of a variety of quasi–judicial bodies – Various tutors 
  6. Workshop on creating fair procedural rules – Various tutors

Weekend 2. 8th and 9th November 2019

The Decision Maker–impartiality, ethics and independence from appointing body:

  1. Ensuring decision–maker’s impartiality (Lecture) – The Hon Ms Justice Mary Irvine, Judge of the Supreme Court
  2. Decision–maker’s independence from and relationship with appointing body (Lecture) – Barry Magee, Solicitor, Fieldfisher Solicitors and former Chair of IPAT
  3. Addressing unconscious bias (Lecture/Workshop) – Bindi Dhokalia, Psychologist
  4. Ethics – Acting judiciously inside and outside the decision–making process (Tutorial) – Various tutors 

Weekend 3. 6th and 7th December 2019

Evidence–its purpose, admissibility and weight:

  1. Evidence: burden and standard of proof (Lecture) – Niall Nolan BL
  2. Admissibility and status of evidence, (Lecture) – Peggy O’Rourke SC
  3. Making decisions on evidence before and at the hearing, (Tutorial) – Various tutors
  4. Preparing for a hearing, (Tutorial) – Various tutors 

Weekend 4. 17th and 18th January 2020

Managing the dynamic of the hearing:

  1. Moderated panel discussion on managing vulnerable and challenging witnesses. Moderator – Mary Rose Gearty SC
  2. Working with interpreters (Lecture) – Dr Mary Phelan, Dublin City University
  3. Opening hearing and setting the tone (Tutorial) – Various tutors
  4. Reacting to unforeseen circumstances (Tutorial) – Various tutors

Weekend 5. 28th and 29th February 2020

Hearing Dynamics II and Mock hearings:

  1. Online and paper–based decision–making processes (Lecture) – Tricia Sheehy Skeffington BL
  2. Adjournments and due process (Lecture) – (Senior Counsel – name TBC)
  3. Mock hearings – Tutorials/Small group work – Various tutors

Weekend 6. 27th and 28th March 2020

Making and recording the decision:

  1. Analysis and decision–making (Lecture) – Sunniva McDonagh SC
  2. The anatomy of a good written decision (Lecture) – The Hon Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, Judge of the Court of Appeal 
  3. Impact of EU Law on quasi–judicial decision–makers (Lecture) – (Expert name tbc)
  4. The decision–making process, (Tutorial) – Various tutors 
  5. Analysis and feedback on written decisions (Tutorial) – Various tutors 


Assessment will be via two written assignments and an oral presentation, comprising:

  1. An individual take–home assignment on an aspect of quasi–judicial decision–making of no more than 2,000 words to be set at the end of Weekend Two (30%);
  2. An oral assessment of a communication or a decision a QJDM may have to make during the course of a hearing (30%);
  3. An individual take–home assignment in the form of a written decision to be drafted after the conclusion of the taught aspect of the course (40%).

Who should attend

This course will be suitable for people responsible for making quasi–judicial decisions, who are involved in the administrative structures around such decisions, or who are seeking training to enhance their applications for quasi–judicial roles in the future.  The course is suitable for lawyers and people working in a regulatory context with familiarity with a rules–based approach to rights and entitlements.


Fees can be viewed here.

How to apply

Applications are made here.

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