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Question

881. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice her plans to reform the laws related to defamation. [41697/21]

931. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice the specific actions have been taken by her Department since the formation of this Government to reform the defamation laws; and her future plans in relation to same. [42689/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): I propose to take Questions Nos. 881 and 931 together.
The review of the Defamation Act 2009 is a legislative priority for the Government and my Department.
The Justice Plan 2021 restates the Programme for Government commitment to review and reform our defamation laws to ensure a balanced approach to the right to freedom of expression and the right to protection of good name and reputation, as well as ensuring effective access to justice.
I expect to bring a report of the defamation review, with options for change to the law, to government. As outlined in the Justice Plan 2021, it is intended that a General Scheme of a Defamation (Amendment) Bill will be prepared by the end of this year.
As a measure of the Government's commitment to this reform, the Defamation (Amendment) Bill, to implement the resulting legislative changes, is already included in the Government’s updated Legislation Programme, which was published in January 2021.
It is a priority for me and my Department to get the reform of defamation law right, and to bring forward the required legislation at the earliest opportunity.
In advance of completion of the review of the Defamation Act 2009, Schedule 1 of the 2009 Act was amended by the Part 20 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020.
The purpose of the amendments was to ensure that post-Brexit, fair and accurate reporting of certain statements, meetings and press conferences held in the UK continue to be protected against claims of defamation, by the defence of qualified privilege, in exactly the same manner as it was prior to Brexit. The need for the amendments arose because several provisions in the 2009 Act, as enacted, regarding the ‘qualified privilege’ defence, applied to reports of statements, meetings, etc. which occur in an EU Member State. The amendments simply amended these provisions to refer to reports of matters occurring in a Member State or the United Kingdom. The amendments responded to concerns expressed by the media in relation to the effects of Brexit on the defence of qualified privilege.