Trouble in the Blog O’Sphere
It all began innocently enough: just before Christmas, Sunday Times journalist John Burns wrote a piece lamenting the shortcomings of blogging in Ireland. Leading bloggers naturally begged to differ. A month later, the spat was picked up by Trevor Butterworth writing on Forbes.com, who noted that “it’s hard to think of a free country more suited to blogging than Ireland”. By the same token, it’s at least as hard to think of a country more given to litigation; and the point was illustrated by a story retailed almost en passant in Butterworth’s piece:
As one journalist told me, Ireland’s media is currently abuzz over a “confidential” legal settlement against a blogger, who allegedly had to pay almost $140,000 in damages for a libelous post, seen by few, swiftly purged from the site, and readily apologized for.
This was intriguing. By the end of the week, John Burns in the Sunday Times had the full story:
A blogger has agreed a €100,000 settlement after libelling Niall Ó Donnchú, a senior civil servant, and his girlfriend Laura Barnes. It is the first time in Ireland that defamatory material on a blog has resulted in a pay-out. … In December 1, 2006, a blogger who styles himself as Ardmayle posted a comment about the couple … Following a legal complaint, he took down the blog and in February 2007 he posted an apology which had been supplied by Ó Donnchú’s and Barnes’ lawyer … However, the pair subsequently issued separate proceedings.