Speech Skirmishes

Today’s papers carry two stories with interesting freedom of expression angles. Both cases are in their initial stages, with more to come: one returns to the High Court today and the other to the Circuit Criminal Court on Monday week. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that they have to capacity to test the health of freedom of expression and media rights in Ireland today, and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

These two skirmishes presage potential speech battles ahead. First, both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent report that the widow of the late educational publisher Albert Folens (whose French primers I remember well, and with some horror, from my fast-receding secondary school days) has sought a temporary High Court injunction to prevent RTÉ from using an interview with her husband in a TV programme titled Ireland’s Nazis, scheduled to be aired next week as part of the Hidden Ireland series.

Update on Monday 15 January: The action was settled; a slightly edited version of the broadcast, with a statement from his family, will go ahead.

Update on Wednesday 17 January: The broadcast went ahead, alleging that Albert Folens was a Flemish nationalist who became a Nazi collaborator and member of the Gestapo; but it was condemned by Folens’s widow, Juliette, who again denied the allegation.

Second, the Irish Times also reports that the DPP Director of Public Prosecutions is to seek an order providing directions to the media on reports concerning the pending corruption trial of the former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond. Whilst 39 media outlets have been contacted, and will be represented by a small number of lawyers, the nature of the orders is that they will bind everyone commenting on the trial, even bloggers!