It’s only words: The fight to thaw the chilling effect of Ireland’s restrictive defamation laws

There is strong support for reform of this country’s defamation laws. Media organisations have long struggled to publish certain stories, fearing punitive costs and damages. There are now signs that this may change, but there are also fears that privacy laws are increasingly being used to stifle the public’s right to know

Defamation law is an expensive business, and numerous publications have been significantly affected by the cost of such cases. Illustration: Getty

​​​​In December 2018, a story began to circulate around Ireland; a story about an unnamed world famous Irish sports star who had been interviewed by the Gardaí about an alleged incident. It started in WhatsApp message groups, then spread to social media, and to the real world, where in homes and pubs and coffee shops all over the country people were speculating about who the sports star might be.

Some people knew, and they told ...