Saturday 3 December 2016

Questions remain about Dáil privilege despite judgment

Dr Laura Cahillane

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Denis O’Brien’s lawyers conceded before the hearing that the comments made in the Dáil could in fact be published.
Denis O’Brien’s lawyers conceded before the hearing that the comments made in the Dáil could in fact be published.

Editors and journalists surely breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday afternoon when Justice Donald Binchy declared that the injunction granted to Denis O'Brien was never intended to restrict the reporting of Dáil proceedings.

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While the ruling did not come as a surprise, it has nonetheless provided renewed confidence to the Irish media on their rights of freedom of expression. However, welcome as the ruling may have been, it did not provide any further clarity on the extent of protection provided by Article 15.12.

Previous court decisions have been very clear on the absolute privilege afforded parliamentarians in the course of their duties by virtue of Article 15. The corollary, which relates to the reporting of Oireachtas proceedings is found in Article 15.12, which states that "all official reports and publications of the Oireachtas … and utterances made in either House wherever published shall be privileged." However, we have never received a judicial explanation of the exact meaning of this phrase or the extent of protection.

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