When is a guillotine a good thing? When it’s used on a Defamation Bill?

A guillotine, via The Guillotine Headquarters websiteIn this morning’s Irish Times:

Defamation Bill to pass within weeks

The Bill to reform Ireland’s libel laws is likely to be enacted within a fortnight, three years after it was published. The Defamation Bill was introduced by then minister for justice Michael McDowell in 2006 to repeal the existing legislation which dates from 1961.

The original government decision to approve the drafting of the new Bill was made as far back as June 2005 … the remaining stages of the Bill will be taken in the Dáil and Seanad over the next two weeks, with the Bill expected to complete its passage through the Oireachtas on July 10th, the last sitting day before the summer recess.

After dragging their heels for so long, this is to be achieved by means of a legislative guillotine:

Guillotine allows ‘one minute 20 seconds’ per amendment

A guillotine on housing legislation allowed just one minute and 20 seconds for each of the 170 amendments to be dealt with, Labour whip Emmet Stagg told the Dáil in repeated criticism of end-of-term deadlines. …

A further sotry in the same edition of the Irish Times lists Bills which are likely to be guillotined, including the Defamation Bill:

Coalition to ‘guillotine’ debate on Bills

The Government will “guillotine” debate on at least 17 Bills in the last three weeks of the Dáil before the summer recess, Opposition parties have claimed. According to the whips for Fine Gael and Labour, the Government is rushing an unprecedented number of Bills through the Dáil between now and July 10th and forcing votes without allowing proper debate. … The schedule of legislation includes two separate Criminal Justice Bills, legislation for the €200 second home tax, an Aviation Bill, the Health Insurance Bill, the Bill for the second Lisbon referendum, the Bill ending pensions paid to serving Ministers, as well as the concluding stages of the Defamation Bill.

I’m not really in favour of legislative guillotines, but I’m prepared to make an exception for this long-delayed Bill, which has many serious flaws but is still on balance much better than the current position. Roll on July 10th!

Bonus links. First, following on from my discussion of the Irish Creative Commons licence, Karlin Lillington has an excellent artice on it in today’s Irish Times: Free and easy way to online licensing enters the mainstream

Second, the same edition of the paper has a rather charming story from the archives (sub req’d) of how Dorothy McArdle found herself the inadvertent victim of Irish censorship during the second World War over an issue of the ground-breaking British Picture Post photo journalism magazine.

Note (26 June 2009) This post has been revised slightly since it was first posted.

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