Having been passed by the Dáil (lower house of parliament) earlier this week, today’s papers are full of the news that the Defamation Bill, 2006 was passed yesterday by the Seanad (upper house of parliament) (the full debate is here); all that is now required for it to become law is the signature of the President.
However, even at this late stage, there was still time for another twist on the Bill’s sinuous route into law. From the front page of this morning’s Irish Times:
The Government lost a vote in the Seanad yesterday on the Defamation Bill but managed to salvage the legislation by calling for a walk-through vote which gave enough time for two missing Senators to be found.
The Government defeat came on an amendment to the Bill proposed by Senator Eugene Regan of Fine Gael proposing to delete the provision in the legislation making blasphemy a crime.
In an electronic vote whereby Senators press a button, the Government was defeated by 22 votes to 21 in the 60-member upper house.
However, Fianna Fáil whip Diarmuid Wilson immediately requested a walk-through vote which takes about 10 minutes to complete. In that period two Senators, Geraldine Feeney of Fianna Fáil and Deirdre De Burca of the Green Party, had time to get to the chamber and the amendment was defeated by 23 votes to 22. The Bill itself was then passed by the same margin. …
There’s more inside, under the headline Controversial Defamation Bill passes by a single vote. On the general substance of the Bill, Carol Coulter, under the headline Bill safeguards right to good name and media freedom argues that the “Defamation Bill reconciles the protection of a person’s good name with freedom of expression”; while Michael Nugent, under the headline Blasphemy law is silly, dangerous and unjust argues that “[i]nstead of passing an anachronistic and medieval blasphemy law, we should be building a secular Ireland”.
Update: I should say that, having been originated in the Seanad, the Bill had already been passed by that House (I blogged about it here), but for various reasons, having been changed in the Dail, it had to return to the Seanad before going to the President. Strictly speaking, therefore, the title of this post should have been: Defamation Bill passed by the Seanad, Again!