Writing in today’s Irish Times, Andrew O’Rorke, Chairman of Hayes Solicitors who are that paper’s legal advisors, welcomes the recent commencement of the Defamation Act, 2009 (much as the Editor did at the time of its enactment):
… The impetus to change the law on defamation originated in 1987. … Government has always been suspicious of media’s perception of its own importance to society. It is an uneasy relationship, which has probably deteriorated in recent times with the increasing examination and analysis of executive action and conduct. There was a marked reluctance to proceed with new legislation, as is evidenced by the almost 20-year gap in finally introducing the Bill in 2006 and the delays since then, …
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, a cornerstone of any democratic, tolerant society, and when sought to be exercised by journalists it should be for the benefit of and on behalf of that same society and the public’s right to know. It is a precious right, but not one that can be exercised in defiance of others’ rights and certainly not if it vilifies another person or paints an untrue picture of that person, their character or actions, which is the essence of defamation. … It is right that healthy tension should divide the two, representing the democratic choice of the people and the resultant scrutiny of the exercise of power. Defamation law to some extent mirrors that contrast, as is evidenced by the contributions to the Oireachtas debates on the passage of the legislation.
The 2009 Act modernises the law and puts it on a par with other civil legislation governing the conduct of litigation. There are no revolutionary changes in its provisions .. To some extent it is lawyers’ law incorporating amendments which will facilitate all sides in the better and fairer conduct of cases. … These modest changes should lead to more efficient, sensible procedures in the interests of the parties and smoother administration of justice.
Read all about it here.