Defamation in Ireland
In Ireland the right to one’s good name is protected under the Constitution. A person, or indeed a business, cannot underestimate the value of their reputation. Whilst they may take years to build, reputations can be destroyed in an instant. This can have serious consequences for your personal life and that of your family and it can seriously damage a business’s performance. If your reputation is damaged because of false or misleading information published by another, you may be entitled to bring a claim for defamation.
Defamation was traditionally broken down into two categories: ‘libel’ (published defamation of character) or ‘slander’ (verbal defamation of character) but now all categories are dealt with under the heading of defamation. Defamation is defined as the publication, by any means, of an untrue statement concerning a person to one or more persons that injures a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society. Publication includes verbal communication, email and internet posting, as well as newspaper publication or on television or radio.
Defamation is becoming more common in Ireland in particular because of the use of social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Ordinary people have the means to publish information to a wide audience in an instant – and they often do not consider the consequences or indeed the legality of what they are saying in advance.
For instance, in November 2011, someone posted a video of a man allegedly leaving his taxi without paying. A student, who was actually in Japan at the time, was wrongly identified as the culprit. The clip went viral and many clearly defamatory comments were posted about the student. He has brought a case against Youtube, Facebook, Google and other websites that hosted the material. In May 2013, the High Court granted an injunction requiring the internet companies to permanently remove the video and accompanying material on the basis that the student had been grossly defamed.
If you think you have been defamed, you could be entitled to compensation for the damage caused to your reputation. You should contact Helen Coughlan (email@example.com) or Niall Farrell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will be able to give you an honest assessment of your particular situation. There is a strict time limit of one year after publication within which to bring a defamation case so it is important to act quickly. Alternatively you can use the “Do I have a case?” link at the top of this page for an opinion on your case.