Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Sarah Frazier

First Page



Judicial and constitutional conservatism have allowed Irish defamation law to remain remarkably close to its English common law origins. But the common law of defamation was not designed for a modem democracy with a free press, and Ireland's libel laws have a profound effect upon freedom of expression. If Ireland is to be a modern democracy, as its constitution asserts that it is, and the European Convention on Human Rights demands, it must protect a core area of free expression in order to allow the press (without the fear of repercussion) to keep the public informed about matters of concern. Once this minimum degree of freedom of expression is attained, Irish courts can begin to weigh other interests, including the right to one's good name, against free speech interests.

Reforming Irish defamation law is therefore essential to Ireland's status as a democracy. It is also required by Ireland's constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. Ireland's Supreme Court should review current defamatory law and impose necessary reforms in order to render it constitutional.

Part II of this Note will examine Irish constitutional history, with attention to the conservative, traditionally often English, influences that have led to Ireland's avoidance of an American-style constitutional review. In Part III, this Note will describe the current Irish defamation law accompanied by an analysis of the Irish decision, Campbell-Sharp v. Independent Newspapers (IRE), Ltd. This section will also survey the impact of defamation law on freedom of expression. Part IV will discuss the level of freedom of expression required by the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights and propose reforms to the law of defamation. Part V will conclude with some final comments.