Client Newsletter Winter 2009 - Litigation And Dispute Resolution - The Defamation Act, 2009

Author:Mr Kieran Cowhey
Profession:Dillon Eustace



Up to now it the area of defamation was governed by the decisions of courts and the Defamation Act 1961. The Defamation Act 2009 ("the Act"), upon its introduction, will reform, restate and clarify the law in this area.

The Act was signed into Law on the 23rd July 2009. The Act repeals The Defamation Act 1961 and makes several important changes to the law of defamation in Ireland. The Order bringing the Act into force has now been signed.

The Tort Of Defamation

Previously "Libel" and "Slander" were separate causes of action. The Act discontinues the use of the terms libel and slander and they will be replaced by the single term "Defamation".

Under the Act defamation will mean publication, by any means of a defamatory statement concerning a person to one or more than one person other than (other than the first mentioned person).

A "defamatory statement" is defined as a statement that tends to injure a person's reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.

The Act does not define "statement" but rather states that it includes:-

A statement made orally or in writing. Visual images, sounds, gestures and any other methods of signifying meaning. A statement: - (i) broadcast on radio or television; or (ii) published on the internet. An electronic communication. An electronic communication includes communication of information in the form of data text, images or sounds or any combination of these by means of guided or unguided electronic magnetic energy or both. This takes into account the modern developments in communication. The Act says that if the defamatory statement concerned is published to the person to whom it relates and to another person and it was not intended that the statement would be published to the second person and it was not reasonably foreseeable that the publication of the statement to the first person would result in it being published to the second person then for the purposes of the Act, no publication has occurred.

A person will have one cause of action only in respect of the publication of a defamatory statement, even if it has more than one defamatory meaning.

Where publication of the defamatory statement to two or more persons is made, the person has only one cause of action arising from that publication. However, a Court may allow a person to bring more than one defamation action in respect of a multiple publication where it considers that the interests of justice so...

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