Minister Flanagan hosts symposium on reform of defamation law
· Event to focus on 4 key themes emerging from public consultation
· Options for reform to be submitted to Minister by end March
14 November 2019
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, is this morning hosting a symposium on the reform of Ireland’s defamation laws in the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, Dublin. The event brings together media, academics, the legal profession, social media companies, NGOs and relevant state bodies to consider four thematic issues arising from a public consultation on how the Defamation Act 2009 might be amended.
Opening the symposium, the Minister said: “Defamation law in Ireland essentially seeks to balance three different rights which are protected under both our Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to freedom of expression, the right to protection of good name and reputation, and the right of access to justice. We might perhaps add a value: that of promoting the importance of truth in public comment and debate, as far as that is reasonably possible, while also recognising and remembering the vital role in a democracy played by an independent media. This morning’s symposium seeks to provide some space for considering the complexity of these issues and will launch the final phase of my Department’s reflection on what changes should be recommended to the Defamation Act 2009.”
Drawing on the key themes which emerged from a public consultation on the issue, the symposium will consider how best to reform Irish defamation law to:
· Avoid ‘chilling’ effects of high/unpredictable awards and legal costs on public interest media reporting;
· Ensure effective and proportionate protection against unfair damage to a person’s good name;
· Develop the use of alternative dispute resolution processes and solutions, and avoid defamation as a ‘rich man’s law’;
· Tackle effectively the new and specific problems raised by online defamation.
A keynote paper will be delivered by Dr Andrew Scott of the London School of Economics. Dr Scott served on the Advisory Boards of the recent studies on defamation undertaken by the Law Commissions of Scotland and Ontario, and authored both the 2016 report on Defamation for the Northern Ireland Executive and the consultation on defamation published by the Northern Ireland Law Commission. Other speakers include Dr Tarlach McGonagle of Leiden University and Dr Neville Cox of Trinity College Dublin.
The event will also feature panel discussions of key stakeholders including the Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney as well as academics and representatives of the media and legal professions.
The symposium will launch the final phase of reflection and conclusion on what changes may be recommended to the Defamation Act 2009. Once this final phase of the reflection has been completed, it is expected that a report on the review with options for reform will be submitted to the Minister before the end of March with a view to the Minister bringing legislative proposals to Government in early course.
Note to editors:
Symposium: Reform of Defamation Law
Royal Irish Academy, Dawson St, Dublin 2
Thursday 14 November 2019
8.45 – 12.50
How best to reform Irish defamation law to:
- Avoid ‘chilling’ effects of high/unpredictable awards and legal costs on public interest media reporting
- Ensure effective and proportionate protection against unfair damage to a person’s good name
- Develop the use of alternative dispute resolution processes and solutions, and avoid defamation as a ‘rich man’s law’
- Tackle effectively the new and specific problems raised by online defamation.
Moderator: Orla O’Donnell, Legal Affairs Correspondent, RTE (confirmed)
8.45 Registration, tea/coffee and pastries/fruit
9.00 Opening speech by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D.
9.25 Keynote paper:
Defamation law reforms on these themes in common law jurisdictions:
Prof. Andrew Scott, London School of Economics (confirmed)
10.05 Perspectives from key stakeholders:
Discussant session I, chaired by moderator
Peter Feeney, Press Ombudsman (confirmed)
Paula Mullooly, Solicitor, Head of Legal Affairs, RTE (confirmed)
Dr David Kenny, Asst. Professor of Law, Trinity College Dublin (confirmed)
10.45 Coffee break
11.10 Defamation law reform, the European Convention on Human Rights, and EU law:
Prof. Tarlach McGonagle, Faculty of Law, University of Leiden (confirmed)
11.40 Irish defamation law: the 2009 Act and the need for reform
Prof. Neville Cox, Fellow, Trinity College Dublin (confirmed)
12.10 Perspectives from key stakeholders in the media and legal professions:
Discussant session II, chaired by moderator
Ed McCann, Managing Editor, Independent Newspapers (confirmed)
Sasha Gayer SC, The Bar of Ireland (confirmed)
Seamus Dooley, Secretary (Ireland), National Union of Journalists (confirmed)
Andrea Martin, Partner, MediaLawyer Solicitors (confirmed)
12.50 Conference close
Note on Speakers:
Dr Andrew Scott
Dr Andrew Scott is an Associate Professor in the Department of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a contributing editor of Gatley on Libel and Slander (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2017), and the co-author of Newsgathering: Law, Regulation and the Public Interest (Oxford University Press, 2016). He served on the Advisory Boards of the recent studies on defamation undertaken by the Law Commissions of Scotland and Ontario, and authored both the 2016 report on Defamation for the Northern Ireland Executive and the consultation on defamation published by the Northern Ireland Law Commission. He briefed the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, and gave written and oral evidence to the UK Joint Select Committee on Defamation, to the UK Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, and to the NI Finance Committee on defamation.
Dr Tarlach McGonagle
Dr Tarlach McGonagle is Professor of Media Law and Information Society at Leiden Law School, Leiden University, and a senior researcher/lecturer at the Institute for Information Law (IViR), Amsterdam Law School, University of Amsterdam. He is the founder and co-chair of the Working Group on human rights in the digital age in the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research. He regularly advises and writes expert studies for the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other inter-governmental organisations. He is a member of the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts on quality journalism in the digital age, and was the lead author of a 2016 Council of Europe study, Freedom of Expression and defamation: a study of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
Dr Neville Cox
Neville Cox is Professor in Law and Dean of Graduate Studies in Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of many books and law review articles including (with Eoin McCullough SC) Defamation Law and Practice (Clarus Press, 2014).