Poll: Should Ireland's defamation laws be reformed?

Businessman Denis O’Brien recently lost a case against the Sunday Business Post.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

OVER THE COURSE of about a month, businessman Denis O’Brien pursued the Sunday Business Post in a High Court challenge alleging defamation – and lost.

The case, which concerned a lengthy article published in 2015,  generated acres of press coverage over the weekend, including a three-page spread in the newspaper that was under fire.

Reacting to the jury’s verdict last week, Sunday Business Post CEO Siobhán Lennon said the case highlighted “the extent to which Ireland’s defamation laws place significant constraints on all Irish media outlets in their efforts to provide robust, objective and fair scrutiny of all the stories that matter to Irish democracy”.

Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney said that Ireland’s defamation laws should be reformed to lower the compensation payouts to defamed citizens, arguing that judges and not juries should decide how much damages ought to be paid.

But some – including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – have argued that any changes to the existing laws need to be carefully considered as they must strike a balance between free speech and protecting people’s privacy and reputations.

With that in mind, we’re asking Fora readers this week: Should Ireland’s defamation laws be reformed?