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The Defamation Act 2009 now governs all claims of defamation arising since the commencement of the new legislation.The traditional definition of defamation was publication of a false statement which subjected a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt.But the right of freedom of expression in Ireland is not absolute.
The right of freedom of speech is also guaranteed by Article 10 (1) of the European Human Rights Convention, which provides that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas, without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” But Article 10 (2) subjects this freedom to such restrictions “as are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary”.Balance of rights Journalists may feel that they should have the right to say whatever they like.After all, Article 40.6.1.i of the Irish Constitution says that the State guarantees the right of citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.
Article 40.3.2 of the Constitution says “the State shall, in particular, by its laws, protect as best it may from unjust attack (and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate) the life, person, good name and property rights of every citizen.” In the 1988 case of , the Irish High Court specifically acknowledged the role played by the law of defamation in vindicating a citizen’s right to his good name. The law of defamation in Ireland is governed by the Constitution, common law and the Defamation Act 2009.That Act repeals the Defamation Act 1961, which was in force until the first day of 2010.