The Department of Justice and Equality announced on 1 November that it will review the impact of the defamation reforms introduced in 2009.
The objective of defamation law is to strike a balance between the constitutional rights of a company or individual to a good reputation and the right to freedom of expression. Achieving this balance has become increasingly difficult with the explosion of digital media providing multiple platforms for numerous parties to express their views and opinions, often without the rigours imposed by traditional media outlets.
The Department's announcement takes place against a backdrop of growing media criticism at the level of defamation awards in Ireland, particularly when compared with those obtained in similar jurisdictions such as the UK. However, it must be borne in mind that, in general, those high profile Irish defamation awards relate to claims determined under the law applicable prior to the enactment of the 2009 Act. These are not an accurate reflection of the current system which now allows judges give directions to a jury regarding the appropriate level of damages.
This review does not include the statutory offence of blasphemy as it will be subject of a constitutional referendum pursuant to the Programme for a Partnership Government.
Although the Department is seeking submissions as part of the public consultation process by 31 December 2016 no commitment has yet been given in relation to the publication of a revised Act which would further reform Irish defamation law.