Standardised tobacco packaging comes ever closer in Ireland

Pantone448C via their websiteThe Irish Independent this morning reports that the first of the plain cigarette packets have hit shelves around the country:

Tobacco products bearing the new standardised packaging are now available in some Irish retail outlets. From September, all cigarettes and all other tobacco products will have to be sold in plain or standardised packaging by law.

The Department of Health have issued a press release in which the Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, welcomed the news that products using the new plain packaging can now be found in some outlets:

Gone are the familiar colours and logos of the various brands and instead all cigarette boxes will be in the same plain neutral colour [pictured above left], bringing into sharp focus the health warnings on the packets. … Our aim is to decrease the appeal of tobacco products, to increase the effectiveness of health warnings and to reduce the chances of consumers being misled about the harmful effects of smoking. This packaging makes it plain that cigarettes are bad for your health. … Standardised packaging is just one of a number of measures outlined in Tobacco Free Ireland (pdf), the ultimate aim of which is to encourage and help smokers to quit and to prevent young people from starting to smoke.

On 10 March 2015, when the President signed the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 (also here) into law, Ireland became the second country in the world — after Australia — to enact legislation requiring standardised tobacco packaging. Much of this Act was brought into force on 20 May 2016 by the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 (Commencement) Order 2016 (SI No 270 of 2016) (also here). The Act was amended by Part 5 of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017 (also here); and the remaining parts of the 2015 Act, as amended by the 2017 Act, were brought into force on 29 September 2017 by the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 (Commencement) Order 2017 (SI No 115 of 2017) (also here). Details of the plain packaging are provided in the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Regulations 2017 (SI No 422 of 2017) (also here). From 30 September 2018, all tobacco products sold in Ireland will have to be packaged in conformity with these provisions. Having been the second country after Australia to enact standardised tobacco packaging legislation, the time it has taken for all of these provisions to be introduced means that we are now the fifth country – as well as Australia, we have been overtaken by France, the UK and Norway – to implement a standardised tobacco packaging regime.

The ink was barely dry on the President’s signature on the 2015 Act when the tobacco industry sought declarations it was contrary to EU law. In JTI Ireland Ltd v Minster for Health [2015] IEHC 481 (07 July 2015) Cregan J declined to make a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union, partly on the grounds that the same questions had already been referred from the UK in R (Philip Morris Brands Sàrl) v Secretary of State for Health [2014] EWHC 3669 (Admin) (07 November 2014). The questions were answered in Case C-547/14 R (Philip Morris Brands Sàrl) v Secretary of State for Health (ECLI:EU:C:2016:325; CJEU, 4 May 2016). And these answers were applied in British American Tobacco v Secretary of State for Health [2016] EWHC 1169 (Admin) (19 May 2016) affd [2016] EWCA Civ 1182 (30 November 2016), where the UK’s standardised packaging regulations were upheld. The Irish case settled after a Directions Hearing on 9 November 2016. When the Bill that became the 2015 Act was being considered by the Joint Committee on Health and Children (Seanad Debates (13 February 2014)), the probability of a constitutional challenge was a theme of submissions to the Committee. However, no such challenge has – yet – emerged. Nevertheless, I have recently published an analysis of the constitutionality of the plain packaging legislation in “Property and Proportionality: Evaluating Ireland’s Tobacco Packaging Legislation” (2017) 17(2) QUT Law Review 46; this is the abstract:

This article evaluates the constitutionality of the restrictions upon tobacco packaging in Ireland in the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 and Part 5 of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017. Australia is the only country to have commenced this legislative process earlier, so the Irish experience (and, in particular, an analysis of the constitutionality of the Irish legislation) could provide a roadmap for other jurisdictions aiming to implement similar restrictions. This article concludes that public health and the protection of children constitute pressing and substantial reasons sufficient to justify as proportionate these Acts’ restrictions upon tobacco companies’ property rights protected by the Irish Constitution.

From Mute to Dysaguria

Alexander Skarsgard in MutePictured left is Alexander Skarsgård (imdb | wikipedia) in the new Duncan Jones (imdb | wikipedia | blog) movie Mute (imdb | Netflix).

Skarsgård plays Leo, a mute bartender searching for girlfriend who has inexplicably disappeared in Berlin in 2052. In an interview in last Sunday’s Observer, he takes up the story:

… [Leo’s] search takes him deep into a neon-saturated underworld, populated by gangsters and a pair of anarchic American field surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) … “It’s very dystopian, but not that far-fetched unfortunately, because it’s a society run by corporations,” says Skarsgård. “You subscribe to a corporation and then they will provide everything for you – housing, healthcare, food – but they basically own you. …”. …

So we could be looking at the future then? Skarsgård looks a little traumatised and then sighs: “Hopefully not.”

I’m looking forward to the movie; but I’m not sure I agree that the best adjective to describe it is “dystopian”. It is entirely appropriate when a state goes bad; but it is not a good adjective to describe “a society run by corporations”. In fact, we don’t have a word for when a corporate society goes bad, so I’ve suggested “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective to describe that frightening company and the associated society run by frightening companies (see here | here | here). We can’t easily discuss a phenomenon until we have the proper words to describe it:

In his speech on leaving the US Presidency in January 1961, Eisenhower warned against the growing power of the military-industrial complex. In modern surveillance terms, we might term this the security-corporate complex. And we already have a word for when the military/security state goes bad, … That word is “dystopia”.

However, we don’t have a word for when the industrial/corporate society goes bad, … I think it’s beyond time we had one … I suggest that we need a word for “frightening company”, and that we can devise one by following the lead provided by More and Mill [in coining “dystopia” as a counterpoint to “utopia”] provides a guide. … Let’s keep “dys” [meaning “bad”] as the prefix, and look for a suitable word to which to add it. Greek provides “aguris”, which means “crowd” or “group” … Hence, from “dys” meaning “bad”, and “aguris” meaning “crowd” or “group”, I suggest “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective…

In my view, therefore, “dysagurian” is the perfect word to describe the society in Mute‘s Berlin in 2052.

Update: Mute did not find favour with Donald Clarke in the Irish Times.

Legal reforms and practical responses are necessary to protect freedom of speech

Sunday Independent front page 12 NovYesterday’s Sunday Independent (front page pictured left) was something of a bumper issue for freedom of speech. The Editorial argued that it’s time to level the media playing field, and called on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to take into account the challenges facing all of the media, not just radio and tv stations, in its deliberations on the future of the television licence fee. And there were three other interesting columns in the print edition that were published online last night. Fergal Quinn argued that, with a referendum looming, the media should champion free speech, and we must learn to tolerate open debate. Eilish O’Hanlon argued that no-one should need to beg the Government’s permission to express an unpopular opinion. And Ruth Dudley Edwards praised Conor Cruise O’Brien as a revisionist who cared about truth and as a patriot who kept free speech alive.

Last week, the Long Room Hub in Trinity College Dublin and the Heyman Center for the Humanities in Columbia University, New York co-hosted a series of events in Dublin and New York on the challenges fake news poses to modern society. In yesterday’s Sunday Independent, Breda Heffernan reported on one of the Dublin events that fake news is a dark menace to truth, democracy and discourse.

Me, Andrea Martin, Todd Gitlin, Jane Ohlmeyer (Director, Long Room Hub), Fionnán Sheahan (click through for larger image)
The previous night, the Hub had hosted a (slightly controversial) Behind the Headlines event on freedom of speech: Where Journalism and the Law Collide at the Boundary of 21st Century Debate, featuring Fionnán Sheehan (Editor of the Irish Independent), Professor Todd Gitlin (of Columbia Journalism School), Andrea Martin (a media lawyer in practice in Dublin), and myself. Ryan Nugent reported in the Irish Independent the following day that traditional and social media are ‘not on a level defamation playing field’. Our four talks have been podcast on SoundCloud by the Hub; Todd’s talk is here; and, yesterday, the Sunday Independent published Andrea’s and mine. (more…)

Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem

Public Consultation Committee Seanad EireannThe Seanad Public Consultation Committee was established “to facilitate direct engagement and consultation between members of the public and Seanad Éireann” (pdf).

It has just undertaken a Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem (pdf):

The purpose of this consultation is to invite submissions from interested parties or citizens to consider the most appropriate way the State should treat the National Anthem. This consultation process is being considered in the context of the music and English and Irish lyrics of the National Anthem no longer being in copyright. Legislative proposals have been made to address this issue. Seanad Éireann would like to consult with citizens on their views on this issue.

I have already commented at length on this blog about the issue, so I made a short submission to the Committee in which I referred to those posts, and answered some of the questions posed in the Consultation. In my view, the anthem should be treated with respect and dignity, and there is a good case to be made for legislation to protect it from inappropriate commercialisation. However, I do not think that copyright is a suitable means to this end. Instead, I think that it is a matter for a specialist piece of legislation, specifically directed to the issue. I have drafted a possible Bill (doc), and I attached it to my submission to the Committee, and my answers to the Committee’s questions reflect the drafting choices in the attached Bill.


Digital resource lifespan, via xkcd; or why copyright law must permit digital deposit

xkcd 1909 Digital Resource Lifespan

The description for this picture provides:

I spent a long time thinking about how to design a system for long-term organization and storage of subject-specific informational resources without needing ongoing work from the experts who created them, only to realized I'd just reinvented libraries.

This picture is worth many thousand of my words:

The Irish Constitution at 80 – Property Rights, Proportionate Restrictions, and Media Pluralism

Constitution at 80 conference in ULA conference to mark 80 years of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish Constitution, will be hosted by the School of Law, University of Limerick on 11 November 2017 in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. The conference will bring together judges, scholars, practitioners, and those with experience of constitutional governance to reflect upon and discuss the past, present and future of Ireland’s constitutional order at this important milestone. Keynote presentations will be delivered by Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, Judge of the Irish Supreme Court. I will be delivering a paper in the following panel:


Dr Eoin O’Dell: Property Rights, Proportionate Restrictions, and Media Pluralism

Dr Claire M Smyth: Social and Economic Rights, Irish Constitution and International Obligations

James Rooney: The Injusticiable Constitution and the Common Good: The Preamble and Directive Principles in Contrast

This is the abstract of my paper:

A Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland (2016) raised “grave concerns about the high concentration of media ownership in the Irish market”, and the Irish report for the EU’s Media Pluralism Monitor recommended that legislative limits on levels of media concentration should be applied retrospectively. As a consequence, a Private Members’ Bill, the Media Ownership Bill 2017, proposed to permit the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to take “retroactive measures” to reduce “significant interests” held by “any one relevant media asset”. This plainly engages the Constitution’s protections of property in Article 40.3 and Article 43.1, which are among the most consistently litigated of its rights since 1937. This paper will consider the nature and extent of the Constitution’s protections of property, the strength of media pluralism and diversity as elements of social justice or the common good that can constitutionally limit property rights, and the extent to which the Bill nevertheless constitutes an unjust (usually, a disproportionate) attack on any engaged property rights.

Kudos to Laura Cahalane and David Kenny, and to their team in UL, Hope Davidson, Caitlin Moyne, and Stephen Strauss-Walsh, for putting together such a great event. The draft programme may be downloaded here (.docx); all are welcome to attend; there is a modest fee; and registration is required.

Making headlines defending speech

Headlines & Fake NewsIn Trinity College Dublin, where I work, the Long Room Hub is the College’s Arts & Humanities Research Institute. It hosts over 250 events each year, including a discussion series entitled Behind the Headlines, which offers background analyses to current issues by experts drawing on the long-term perspectives of Arts & Humanities research. In particular, the series “aims to provide a forum that deepens understanding, combats simplification and polarization and thus creates space for informed and respectful public discourse.”

In the recent past, the series has featured discussions on artificial intelligence, Trump’s America, Syria, and Brexit (not once but twice). The next event in this series will be on Monday 6 November 2017, 6:30pm to 8:00pm, on

Freedom of Speech: Where Journalism and the Law Collide at the Boundary of 21st Century Debate

In a world where truth is under siege, freedom of speech has never been more important. But, as outrage and offense in public debate become a commodity for social media technology giants, the future of professional journalism in educating public opinion while challenging authority and power is increasingly under attack. …

This discussion is part of the ‘Fears, Factions and Fake News’ symposium held in conjunction with Columbia University and in partnership with Independent News and Media.

I am one of the four speakers; the other three are Professor Todd Gitlin (Columbia Journalism School, Columbia University), Dearbhail McDonald (Independent News and Media Group Business Editor) and Andrea Martin (media lawyer and speaker, MediaLawyer Solicitors).

Last Sunday, under the headline Major free speech symposium by INM, TCD and Columbia, the Sunday Independent ran a piece by Wayne O’Connor about the ‘Behind the Headlines’ discussion and the other events in the symposium. This provoked a response by Peter Murtagh in this morning’s Irish Times:

US academic pledges to defend free speech ‘with anyone’s funding’

Conference, partly funded by INM, has been criticised because of links to Denis O’Brien

A leading US academic due to speak at a conference partly funded by Independent News and Media has said he “will defend the right to seek truth and to campaign against any and all assaults on the freedom of speech”. Prof Todd Gitlin of Columbia University’s prestigious school of journalism will participate in a seminar on November 6th entitled Freedom of Speech – where journalism and law collide.

The conference has been criticised because of the links to Denis O’Brien, a leading INM shareholder and the owner of Communicorp, one of the biggest radio stations groups in Ireland. … Saying that he had not “previously heard” of Mr O’Brien, Prof Gitlin said: “Please be assured that in any setting, with anyone’s funding, I will defend the right to seek truth and to campaign against any and all assaults on the freedom of speech.”

So, an event about “behind the headlines” is making headlines itself. (more…)

The Irish Supreme Court begins to enter the television age

Still from Supreme Court Broadcast
Still from this morning’s broadcast
When the UK Supreme Court was established in 2009, with the capacity to broadcast its proceedings, I wondered when the Irish Supreme Court would follow suit, and televise its proceedings too. Today, I have the beginnings of an answer. This morning, the Supreme Court televised its proceedings for the first time, when it broadcast the delivery of two judgments. That broadcast should be available, for the next few days at least, via the RTE Player.

Chief Justice Clarke said that the move was aimed at “demystifying” the courts process, and allowing people to “see how their highest court operates”. He also described the move as a “baby step” which could lead to wider filming of the courts in the future. I hope that it will not be long before the Supreme Court routinely broadcasts its proceedings as its UK counterpart does, and there is certainly potential for the broadcast of proceedings of other courts too. The Irish Times said:

The live broadcasting of court proceedings has been discussed for years but the impetus for it has been attributed to a meeting five years ago between Ms Denham and then RTÉ deputy director general Kevin Bakhurst. Since his appointment as Chief Justice last July, Mr Justice Clarke has been keen to advance the project, and his involvement and support was a crucial factor.

This is an excellent start, but a lot more needs to be done. As Article 34.1 of the Constitution tells us, justice is administered in public. In this day and age, the broadcast of the Supreme Court’s proceedings should be the norm, and the sooner that is so, the better.