Sunday 15 September 2019

Justice Minister prevented from working on legislation to combat online harassment by filibustering in the Seanad - Taoiseach

Charlie Flanagan
Charlie Flanagan
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is being prevented from working on important legislation to combat online harassment by filibustering in the Seanad, the Taoiseach has claimed.

Tensions are growing in Leinster House over new laws to deal with how judges are appointed.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is the brainchild of Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross – but it is Justice Minister’s duty to bring it through the Dáil and Seanad.

Mr Flanagan has faced days of debate in the Seanad which the Government claims amounts to a deliberate attempt to block the passage of the Bill.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has now claimed other legislation is being delayed, including one piece which could help prevent suicides as a result of online abuse.

In the Dáil yesterday, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin highlighted the case of Jackie Fox who had campaigned about internet abuse after her daughter Nicole “died by suicide in January this year after prolonged and vicious online harassment”.

Mr Howlin said he met with Ms Fox and another mother whose son is suffering online abuse and the “emotion was palpable”.

He asked when the Government would progress the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 which first came before the Dáil last year.

“It is urgent. They have been to the gardaí and the gardaí say there are no laws to address the type of appalling behaviour that drives children to suicide,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s John Curran said the Government needed to “engage meaningfully” on the issue.

However, Mr Varadkar responded by pointing out that Labour, Fianna Fáil and others are occupying the minister’s time.

“I am sorry to hear about the tragic suicide which they describe. The Minister for Justice and Equality is committed to working on a cross-party basis to pass this legislation,” he said.

However, Mr Varadkar added: “Unfortunately, the Minister for Justice and Equality is not here at the moment. He is in the Seanad where a filibuster is going on with other justice legislation. 

“The truth, whether people wish to admit it or not, is that the ongoing filibuster of justice legislation in the Seanad is causing other legislation to back up, including important legislation such as this.”

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section