Direct Provision: the implications of N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality

Direct Provision: the implications of N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality

Marie O'Reilly - JF Law

“Work offers dignity and the best means of integration, and reduces the cost to the State”

-A person living in Direct Provision expressing their desire to work[1]


On May 30th, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Burmese man’s appeal over the blanket ban preventing asylum seekers to work or seek entrance to the labour market. This judgment, N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality, represents a revolutionary but long overdue departure from the current legislative positions. This article will outline the relevant legislation currently outlawing asylum seekers from working and argue that access to employment is a basic human right. It will examine the landmark case of N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality, before setting out how the legislation currently being drafted is likely to be implemented. Finally, this article will critically analyse other attempted reforms to the asylum system, including Direct Provision, before concluding that this ruling is but the first step towards a fair and just system for migrants with pending asylum applications.

Current Legislation

The prohibition on employment is enforced by virtue of section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 whereby an applicant shall not “seek or enter employment or carry on any business, trade or profession” before a decision is made with regards to their immigration application.[2] This legislation was reinforced with the promulgation of the International Protection Act 2015 which expressly prohibits the seeking of or entering employment under section 16(3)(b).[3]

Ireland and Lithuania are currently the only two EU member states, which unequivocally prohibit employment during the asylum procedure notwithstanding the duration of time spent awaiting a verdict on their application.[4]

Basic Human Right

Access to the labour market is intrinsic to personal freedom, self-determination, and human dignity, while the adverse consequences of prohibition from employment are innumerable. This interdiction engenders self-depreciation, stagnation, and social exclusion. The prolongation of prevention from access to the labour market can cause an individual’s skills to become obsolete or can result in a lack of confidence and sense of worthiness which act as further barriers to gaining employment when the prohibition is revoked. The HSE has conducted qualitative research into the negative impacts of denying employment to individuals living in Direct Provision, and ascertained a positive correlation between prolonged idleness, which is a concomitant to unemployment, and mental health and psychological problems.[5]

Accordingly, the right to work appears as a fundamental human right in the framework of many international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the European Social Charter, and relevant International Labour Organisation Conventions.[6] For example, Article 23(1) of the UDHR states that “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”[7] Ireland’s current blanket ban on the right of asylum seekers to work or seek employment  therefore appears to be  in breach of these international agreements.

The Irish Constitution acknowledges that people living in Ireland have certain fundamental personal rights, not all of which are expressly stated in the Constitution, but may be implied or derived from it.[8] Indeed, it was in finding that the interdiction was “in principle” unconstitutional that the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of the Applicant in the N.H.V. case, in relation to the outright ban on the right of asylum seekers to work while their immigration applications are pending.

N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality

The applicant in this case, a Burmese citizen, arrived in the State on July 16th, 2008, and made an application for refugee status the following day. In 2009, his application was rejected at first instance, and again on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The challenge to this decision failed in judicial review proceedings in July 2013 and again in February 2014.[9]

In 2013, the applicant received an offer of employment and applied to the Minister for Justice and Equality for permission to accept the offer. The Minister refused to grant permission, stating that he was precluded from doing so under section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996. N.H.V. then instituted proceedings in the High Court, challenging the interpretation of section 9(4), and pursuing a declaration of the incompatibility of the section with the Charter of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Irish Constitution.[10]

The Supreme Court found that, as the current asylum processing system has no statutory time limit for an application to be decided upon, the “absolute prohibition” on asylum seekers to seek access to the labour market is contradictory to the constitutional right to attempt to obtain employment.[11]

The judgment centred on the degree to which non-citizens, as “human persons,” are eligible for protection under constitutional rights. O’Donnell J distinguished between constitutional rights attached to citizenship, such as the right to vote, and rights that all those in the state, notwithstanding their immigration status, are free to avail of as “human persons.”[12] He stated in his judgment that the freedom to work, or seek employment, is an innate “part of the human personality.”[13]He continued that under the court’s interpretation of Article 40.1 of the Constitution, aspects of rights which were part of the human personality could not be indefinitely precluded from non-citizens, and held that the right to work was an unenumerated right derived from the Constitution, and therefore could be enjoyed by non-citizens.[14]

Implementation of new legislation


This landmark judgment concluded with the court confirming adjournment from making any formal orders for a period of six months to allow the enactment of new legislation by the legislature, who would have to decide how to address the situation.[15] The judgment was delivered on May 30th 2017, exactly six months to date, and the declaration of a new order in relation to this issue is eagerly anticipated.


The government has been urged by many lobbyists and working groups that the best way to proceed is to align Ireland’s asylum system with other Member States as a member of the Common European Asylum System. It could efficiently do so by opting in to the recast Reception Conditions Directive which sets minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.[16] This Directive recommends that asylum seekers be granted access to the labour market after a maximum period of nine months without first instance determination on their refugee or subsidiary protection applications,[17] where the delay is not attributed to the applicant. Member States implement the Directive in a discretionary manner; several States affix restrictions to the right to work,[18] while other member states permit employment before the nine month benchmark- such as Greece and Sweden, which accord immediate labour market entrance to asylum seekers, and Germany, where the right to employment is acquired two months subsequent to submission of an application for refugee or subsidiary protection status.[19]

The Irish Refugee Council has recommended in their policy paper regarding the right to work for international applicants that access to the labour market for asylum seekers should be granted no longer than six months after an application is submitted to the IPO. This proposed timescale is deduced from the fact that it is the same period after which an asylum seeker may request information from the IPO as to when a recommendation will be made on their application, under Section 39 (5) of the International Protection Act 2015.[20] The UNHCR also endorses this recommended six-month benchmark.

Conditions and Restrictions

The IRC has also called for no conditions or restrictions to be attached to the right to work “such as restricting it to particular professions or sectors or that people cannot be self-employed.”[21] Nevertheless, it has already become apparent that the right of asylum seekers to enter the labour market will be impeded by a number of limitations administered by the government.

It is probable that access to work will only be permitted in certain “restricted sectors of employment.”[22] A government spokesperson attempted to repudiate claims that such an action would be discriminatory by highlighting the current “relatively low” level of unemployment in Ireland in an endeavour to justify the government’s alleged plans to only permit access to work in areas where there are increasing levels of unemployment.[23] This would assuredly signify severely limited, if not unattainable access to sectors such as health. While the Supreme Court ruling in N.H.V. v Minister for Justice and Equality found the right to work an integral part of human dignity and freedom under the Constitution, these restrictions would infringe, yet again, on these unenumerated rights.

Furthermore, regardless of an asylum seeker’s work status, they will remain obliged to stay in Direct Provision.[24] This will pose an additional array of difficulties, in that employment will have to be secured a reasonable distance from Direct Provision residences.

Other Reforms to the Asylum System

It is widely acknowledged that applications for international protection in Ireland are subject to a severe processing delay, spanning months and even years. The paramount factor for this backlog was the split system in processing applications[25], but this was reformed earlier this year, on January 3rd, with the promulgation of the “single procedure” under the International Protection Act 2015. This new legislation permits applications for refugee status and subsidiary protection in one application, with the intention of drastically reducing the time spent by asylum seekers in Direct Provision.[26] While the UNHCR has welcomed the approach, it must be acknowledged that it will take a while for the system to be effectively applied retrospectively, taking a considerable amount of time to clear the backlog of applications.

C.A and T.A. (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Equality

The living conditions in Direct Provision centres have been a topic of controversy since their establishment in April 2000. The inhabitants are given a meagre weekly allowance of only €19.10 a month, an amount which has remained unchanged over seventeen years despite recommendations from a number of working groups.[27]

In 2014, C.A. and T.A. (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Equality saw a challenge to the Direct Provision System on a number of grounds. The applicants were successful in several of their claims: some of the house rules of Direct Provision centres including unannounced room inspections, monitoring of presence, requirement to notify intended absences and rules against having guests in bedrooms, and the complaints handling procedure were declared unlawful.[28] The Irish Immigrant Support Centre expressed their disappointment that the paltry weekly payment, and the operation of Direct Provision as a whole were not deemed unlawful.[29]

Interestingly, Mr Justice Colm McEochaidh said that while the applicant’s claim was “doomed”, it was not because the proposition that Direct Proposition was in breach of Human Rights was false, but because the applicants had failed to provide oral evidence and had not cross-examined the witnesses for the opposition.[30]


The current system is undoubtedly fundamentally flawed, but with several aspects of Direct Provision declared unlawful in recent years, a departure from the “multi-layered” process, and new legislation presently being enacted to grant asylum seekers access to the labour market, it finally appears as though the Irish Government has realised the system is in need of reform. Although major alterations are still required, these may act as a prerequisite for further actions. The order due to be delivered will have major implications for those currently living in Direct Provision. An equitable, more just system is eagerly anticipated by asylum-seekers and human rights advocates alike.

[1] ‘Government must opt into EU Directive on asylum seekers’ The Irish Times

[2] Refugee Act, 1996

[3] Human Rights in Ireland- Asylum seekers and the right to work: The Supreme Court Decision

[4] EDAL: The right to work for asylum seekers: Ireland’s prohibition on employment

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[8] Citizen’s Information- Fundamental Rights under the Irish Constitution

[9] N.H.V v Minister for Justice and Equality and ors [2017] IESC 35

[10] Ibid








[18] Working Group to Report to Government Working Group on the Protection Process on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers Final Report June 2015,%20including%20Direct%20Provision%20and%20Supports%20to%20Asylum%20Seekers.pdf/Files/Report%20to%20Government%20on%20Improvements%20to%20the%20Protection%20Process,%20including%20Direct%20Provision%20and%20Supports%20to%20Asylum%20Seekers.pdf

[19] Irish Refugee Council Policy Paper: The Right To Work For International Protection Applicants July 2017

[20] Ibid

[21] Ibid



[24] Ibid

[25] Irish Refugee Council Proposal: Proposal For A One-Off Scheme To Clear The Backlog Of People In The Protection Process Before The Introduction Of A Single Protection Procedure

[26] Rule change should lead to less time in Direct Provision Centres for asylum seekers

[27] EDAL: The right to work for asylum seekers: Ireland’s prohibition on employment


[29] Direct Provision is legal, but some of its rules are not, says High Court

[30] Mother and Son lose challenge against Ireland’s Direct Provision for asylum seekers

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The General Data Protection Regulation: An overview of its impact on European Society

The General Data Protection Regulation: An overview of its impact on European Society

Campbell Whyte - JF Law & French


In the 21st century, the line between public life and private life is becoming increasingly blurred. Our lives are more online now than ever before. While this loss of privacy is due in part to our own willingness to share on social media, it is also due in part to the necessity of providing personal information online. This article will cover how the European Union has sought to protect privacy in the past and how it continues to do so today.

To exist in the digital age, individuals are required to digitize much sensitive information about themselves: Social media websites store email addresses, dates of birth and much more, hospitals can access detailed medical records, banks store PPS numbers and addresses, and shopping websites retain credit card information. There is little choice but to trust the security and ethics of businesses when giving them information, and while avoiding social media and online shopping may be possible, avoiding institutions such as banks, schools and hospitals is next to impossible. In order to counteract this loss of privacy and to protect people’s personal information, the European Parliament and Council agreed on the General Data Protection Regulation[1] (GDPR) in April 2016.

The GDPR as an International Document

The GDPR will come into effect on 25 May 2018, and companies must show compliance by that date. The GDPR is a significant piece of legislation which took five years to draft and consists of 87 pages and 99 articles subdivided into 11 chapters. It replaces the 1995 Data Protection Directive[2] and is “designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”[3]

The Data Protection Directive, passed to protect citizens in 1995, does not properly address the challenges to privacy in 2018, and the GDPR is designed to modernize data protection practices. Some of the data protected by the GDPR and now stored in online databases is basic identity information including name, address, ID number, and web data such as location, IP address, cookie data, health and genetic data, racial or ethnic data, political opinions and sexual orientation. The GDPR emphasises transparency and customer control and is intended to standardize data security laws, though individual states still retain some freedom.[4]

Under the GDPR, the European Union has much greater authority for prosecuting crimes involving personal privacy. As the GDPR is a Regulation instead of a Directive, it does not need to be incorporated into each country’s body of legislation to take legal force. The GDPR applies to all companies handling the personal information of EU citizens, even if the company is based outside of the EU. Non-EU companies processing the data of EU citizens will have to appoint an EU representative.[5]

Customer Rights under the GDPR

Under the GDPR, customers in the EU have new rights regarding their own data, and informed customer consent is paramount. Terms and conditions must be in an understandable language, retracting consent must be as easy as giving consent, and where consent to use data has been given previously for one purpose, consent must be given again if the company wants to use the data for a new purpose.[6]

Organisations offering online services to children under sixteen must get parental consent to process data, and these organisations are also obliged to make a reasonable effort to verify the age or parental consent of young data subjects. Customers have the right to not be subject to a decision made solely by automated processing that significantly impacts them; this in effect makes nonconsensual profiling illegal unless it is permitted by EU law or unless it is necessary for the fulfillment of a contract.[7]

Data subjects have the right to know what personal data of theirs is being processed and for what purpose, to ask for an electronic copy of their personal data free of charge, and to have this information transmitted to another company. Data subjects are also entitled to have companies erase all their personal data and halt all further dissemination and processing of it upon request, and companies are obliged to erase data that is no longer relevant to the original purpose for which it was collected.[8]

Impact on Business and the Public Sector

Almost all companies and public sector organizations are subject to the GDPR. All organizations whose core operations include processing a significant volume of personal data are obliged to appoint a Data Protections Officer who must be sufficiently well-resourced to carry out his/her duties. The tasks of the Data Protections Officer include notifying data processors of their legal obligations, monitoring compliance under the GDPR and reporting to senior management.[9] The Data Protections Officers must also ensure that companies give a full description of any breaches of personal data to the relevant Data Protections Authority without delay, including the approximate number of people affected, the likely consequences of the breach, and the measures being taken to mitigate the effects on customers.[10]

Legal Penalties for Non-Compliance

Under the GDPR, data infringements, such as insufficient customer consent to process data, poorly organized records, or failure to notify authorities about a data breach, will have greater penalties calculated as a percentage of the company’s annual turnover. There are two tiers of offences, and for more minor offences, a maximum fine of €10,000,000 or 2% of the company’s total annual turnover from the previous year may be imposed. This includes breaches of privacy by design obligations, failure to keep adequate records and failure to meet security requirements. For more severe offences, the maximum fine is €20,000,000 or 4% of the company’s annual turnover.[11] This includes breaches of the basic principles of data processing, infringements of conditions of consent and illegal transfers of data to countries outside of the European Union. These are very significant fines and will be very persuasive in terms of compliance. Companies found to be in violation of the GDPR will be fined without trial, as is current practice, but they may appeal the fine to courts in their own country.

Costs of the GDPR

The GDPR has supporters and detractors among companies that process large amounts of customer data. According to a PwC survey, 68% of US based companies expected to spend $1m to $2m to meet the requirements, and another 9% expected to spend more than $10m.[12] In May 2017, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner estimated that 70% of Irish businesses do not know when the GDPR comes into effect; 25% of businesses do not know when they will start preparations and 83% are unable to name any GDPR changes for their business.[13] Many law firms are profiting by training corporate clients in GDPR compliance, yet smaller firms and charities are concerned that they will not be able to afford such legal counsel. The GDPR may be difficult to enforce, and small businesses that can’t afford sophisticated legal counsel may be hurt by this. As regards large businesses, the consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, predicts that companies in the FTSE 100 index could pay up to £5 billion a year in non-compliance fines when the GDPR comes into effect.[14] However, firms who implement privacy systems compliant with the GDPR could see benefits in the near future, as customers will likely have a preference for companies with strong data protection and fewer data breaches.

The potential impact of the GDPR

The GDPR has the power to effect sweeping change in how companies respect citizens’ data rights, and prevent breaches of privacy that are becoming far too common today. For example, Google has been criticized by the French CNIL for storing customers’ online data for up to two years, for failing to give customers sufficient information on how their data will be used and how long it will be stored, and for failing to cooperate with commissioners. The GDPR could very well make Europe an example to the rest of the world of how to legislate and protect privacy, and as such countries which are not bound by the GDPR may decide to revise their own outdated and insufficient data laws. For example, the US has individual sector-specific regulations but no overarching data privacy legislation, and the UK is not bound by the GDPR now that it has exited the European Union, and both may soon see a need to implement legislation similar to the GDPR.


The GDPR is not without its faults. Some have criticised it for its extraterritorial jurisdiction and concerns about enforceability; others for stifling business through over-regulation. Indeed, it is a substantial piece of legislation, and the first few years may present difficulties while organizations try to adapt. However, these problems do not negate the potential of the GDPR to create long lasting benefits in not just Europe but the world.[15]

For years now the loss of privacy has been lamented as inevitable, and though it is inevitable to some degree, recent change shows that it is not completely unavoidable. Pessimistic beliefs that privacy is dead only lead to an attitude of complacency and acceptance towards violations of rights and thus hasten the demise of privacy. Acts, such as the GDPR, effect genuine change and show us that we are not obliged to passively accept a world in which companies disrespect customer privacy with impunity.

[1] 2016/679

[2] 95/46/EC

[3] European Union General Data Protection Regulation Portal <> accessed 5 January 2018






[9] ‘General Data Protections: 6 Things You Need to Know’, <> accessed 6 January 2018>

[10] ‘The GDPR and You’, Data Protection Commissioner < >

[11]‘Reforming Data Protection Law: Introducing the General Data Protection Regulation’ <> accessed 2 January 2018

[12] ‘GDPR Compliance Top Data Protection Priority for 92% of US Organizations in 2017, According to PwC Survey’

<> accessed 3 January 2018

[13] ‘One year to game-changing General Data Protection Regulation but just 14% of SMEs have begun getting ready’

<> accesssed 3 January 2018


[15] Charles Arthur, ‘Google Privacy Policy Slammed by EU Data Protection Chiefs’ The Guardian (16 October 2012), <> accessed 5 January 2018.

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Turp v Canada :  Une décision controverse intouchable par le pouvoir judiciaire

Turp v Canada :  Une décision controverse intouchable par le pouvoir judiciaire

Kaitlin Corbeil - JF Law and Political Science

Le droit international traite surtout de matières reliées aux valeurs fondamentales qui ajoutent à la complexité de la vie humaine, ainsi qu’aux relations entre les états jumelés. Il s’ajoute aux conversations de matières humanitaires en présentant une voix forte en sa légitimé et sévère en sa finalité. Inévitablement relié, le pouvoir judicaire doit surveiller le pouvoir gouvernemental dans les affaires étrangères sans porter atteinte hors de leur juridiction. Cela rend les décisions légitimes des Ministres intouchables par les tribunaux. Ce court essai présentera brièvement l’exemple de Turp v Canada[1] et la décision qui a paru à plusieurs sévère et dépourvu de sens moral.

Les complexités des décisions en droit international humanitaire se retrouvent entre autre parmi les controverses dans lesquelles elles sont vedettes. La demande de contrôle judiciaire du professeur en droit international et constitutionnel Daniel Turp de l’Université de Montréal n’est pas une exception. Il a poursuivi l’affaire du gouvernement Trudeau à la Cour Fédérale, prônant que le Ministre des affaires étrangères n’a pas bien respecté l'intérêt du Canada en délivrant les licences octroyant l’exportation des véhicules blindés légers (VBL) fabriqués au Canada vers l’Arabie Saoudite. Ceci dit, la Cour n’était pas en mesure d’évaluer la conclusion de la décision. Plutôt, son rôle était uniquement d’assurer que le Ministre a eu recours aux évaluations nécessaires lors de sa décision. Considérons la question analysée par la juge Tremblay-Lamer : l’octroi des licences d’exportation pour des VBL vers l’Arabie Saoudite, s'agit-t-il d’une erreur susceptible de contrôle judiciaire? Pour tenter une réponse, les provisions de la section 7 de la Loi sur les licences d’exportation et d’importation[2] ainsi que le complément de la loi, le Manuel des contrôles à l’exportation[3] ont été examiné en profondeur.

Les VBL sont compris dans la liste de marchandises susceptibles d’exportation.[4] D’ailleurs, le Ministre peut accorder des licences pour cette marchandise tout en ayant recours vers les intérêts nationaux du Canada, ainsi que vers une multitude de facteurs à considérer inclus dans le paragraphe 7(1.01) de la LLEI. Ces facteurs peuvent engendrer que la marchandise demandée nuise à la sécurité, aux intérêts de l’État, à la paix ou la stabilité dans n’importe quel pays ou région du monde. De plus, le Manuel offre des facteurs qui peuvent être considérés spécifiquement pour les technologies militaires. Ceux-ci comprennent le contrôle rigide de l’exportation vers certains pays qui constituent une menace potentielle pour le Canada et ses alliés, des pays participants à des hostilités, qui sont frappés d’une Sanction du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies et aux pays dont les gouvernements commettent de graves violations des droits de l’homme contre leurs citoyens, à moins que l’on ne puisse prouver que les produits ne risquent pas d’être utilisés contre la population civile.

Le demandeur a soutenu que les politiques adoptées par le gouvernement en question de la LLEI demandent un contrôle étroit sur l’exportation de toutes matières militaires pour s’assurer qu’elles ne seront pas utilisées pour commettre des violations des droits de l’homme. Il préconise qu’en évaluant les conséquences possibles de la vente des blindés, le gouvernement n’a pas appliqué les mesures convenables. Afin de démontrer une violation possible des droits de l’homme, Turp propose que le gouvernement a examiné les preuves passées d’utilisations de ces véhicules contre les civils au lieu d’évaluer la présence d’un risque de tels utilisations dans le futur. Ce risque, selon Turp, était suffisamment concret en raison du comportement passé de l’Arabie Saoudite, et du présent conflit avec des minorités religieuses de la péninsule arabique[5].

La décision de l’état explique que depuis le lancement de la relation commerciale entre le Canada et l’Arabie Saoudite, des milliers de VBL ont été exporté vers ce dernier. Contrairement au reportages des journalistes, aucun de ces véhicules n’a été impliqué dans des violations du droit de la personne. Le département du Ministre ne pouvait donc pas confirmer un risque concret pour nier l’octroi de la licence qui apportera de nombreux avantages importants à la santé économique et politique du Canada ainsi qu’au développement de l’industrie de la défense; des considérations qui ne se présentent pas dans l’application du demandeur.

C’est à l’égard de cette conclusion que la décision du Ministre a fait face à un contre coup. L'interprétation était qu’il facilitait les violations des droits de la personne en risquant la sécurité des civils indépendamment des valeurs prédominantes de la société canadienne en vers ce genre d’activité. Plusieurs, le demandeur y inclus, ont mis leur espoir dans la Cour pour fournir une solution, mais elle ne pouvait pas. Elle ne pouvait pas trancher sur la moralité de la décision du Ministre, mais plutôt si la méthode qui a été employé pour arriver à cette conclusion suivait la loi et respectait les promulgations concernées.[6]

La LLEI et le Manuel impose aucune restriction. Au contraire, ils confirment le pouvoir discrétionnaire à la disposition du Ministre, un pouvoir qui lui permet d’agir ou de ne pas agir selon ce qu’il décide est le plus approprié pour l’intérêt public. La Cour devait s’assurer que ce pouvoir discrétionnaire ne serait pas violé par une décision qui s'éloignait de ce qui est la loi et non ce que la loi devrait être dans ces circonstances. La juge Tremblay-Lamer a confirmé dans son analyse que ‘La décision contestée démontre que le Ministre s’est fondé sur les intérêts du Canada en matière de sécurité nationale et internationale ainsi que sur ses intérêts commerciaux et économiques afin de la prendre. Ces facteurs ne sont pas des considérations inappropriées ou étrangères à l’objet de la loi.’[7] De plus, elle a énoncé que contrairement à la position du demandeur, le ministre a considéré le conflit du Yémen, et les implications de l’Arabie Saoudite là-dedans. La décision démontre que le département a eu recours aux commentaires des experts des Nations Unies, les rapports des médias ainsi que les informations fournis par l’ambassade Canadienne à Riyad[8].

La conclusion de la décision aurait certainement pu être différente. Les facteurs considérés par le Ministre ont été évalués selon les objectifs et les priorités du gouvernement et ont finalement été stratifiés d’une façon qui préfèrerait l’octroi de la licence. Les pours et les contres ne seront pas pareils pour tous, dépendant particulièrement sur les valeurs qui composent les idéologies de notre réalité. La Cour n’a pas la fonction de juger si le gouvernement agit moralement; une vérité qui n’est pas souvent réalisée. Contrairement, elle doit s’assurer que le pouvoir gouvernementale a respecté les consignes de la loi et n’a pas été abusé. Ici, le Ministre s’était vu accordé par la LLEI et le Manuel une grande marge de discrétion et il a agi de façon respective aux lignes directives. L’accordement d’un tel pouvoir et le manque de restrictions concernant une branche de droit international si bouleversante peut certainement être analysés de manière critique et se retrouver le sujet de nombreux débats académiques. Pour l’instant, le rôle de la Cour reste celui de surveillance et le pouvoir judicaire toujours au-delà des débats subjectifs et morals, comme on le glorifie souvent naïvement.

[1]  [2017] CF 84

[2] LRC 1985, ch E-19 [LLEI]

[3] Affaires mondiales Canada, juin 2015 [le Manuel]

[4] LLEI (n 2) paragraphe 2

[5] [2017] CF 84

[6] [2017] CF 84 paragraphe 76

[7] ibid paragraphe 51

[8] ibid paragraphe 54

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Satire in Irish law, and comparisons with other jurisdictions

Satire in Irish law, and comparisons with other jurisdictions

Ross Malervy - JEB

The Irish constitution guarantees both the right to a good name[2] and the right to free speech,[3] rights which come into conflict with one another in satire. However, in defamation cases the Irish courts are currently reluctant to rely on these constitutional protections, feeling that rights are adequately protected by existing tort laws.[4]

This piece will discuss the current treatment of satire in Irish law, and will contrast it to the jurisprudence in the United States in order to highlight the effect that distinguishing defamation and satire in law can have.

A ‘defamatory statement’ is defined as ‘a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society’.[5]  In other words, one must merely issue a statement that injures a 3rd party’s reputation in the eyes of the community in order to be potentially liable for defamation.  The intent of the tortfeasor (be it satirical or otherwise) is irrelevant.[6]  Additionally, everyone, even the most repulsive members of society, are assumed to have a reputation that can be damaged.[7]

Satire is defined as ‘the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly, etc.’[8] In the US, satire is famously a defence for many actions of defamation, the case is not the same in Ireland. In 1991, the Law Reform Commission published a report[9], concerning reformation of defamation law. The report briefly commented on satire and stated:

We recommend that, in cases involving allegedly defamatory matter contained in a fictional context, the ordinary requirement of identification should be supplemented by a requirement that the matter be reasonably understood as referring to actual qualities or events involving the plaintiff.[10]

The Commission further noted that there should not be a distinction between a satirical comment and any other defamatory comment ‘solely on the basis that its object is to subject the target to derision or ridicule rather than hatred or contempt’.[11]   The commission concludes by stating ‘We accordingly recommend that there should be no special provision in relation to such material.[12] 

Such a distinction would have potentially influenced the dispute that the online satirical news outlet, Waterford Whispers entered in 2015. The website wrote a piece set in a parallel universe in which the D.P.P prosecutes Dennis O’Brien for bribing politicians. The website subsequently received a cease and desist order from O’Brien’s solicitors. The piece was then reposted by[13]This situation received a wave of negative publication for Mr. O’Brien, who subsequently did not pursue the Broadsheet in court, however the legal situation of satire has not changed.

A positive change for satire law may come from the precedent set by other jurisdictions, particularly the United States. The courts in the United States draw a distinction between satire and defamation. One author has described the difference as ‘defamation is a malicious lie passed off as truth; satire is a humorous skewering of a cultural or political event.’[14]

Consider the case Hustler Magazine v Falwell[15] , which dealt with whether a satirical article by the pornographic magazine, Hustler, was protected by the first amendment right to free speech. The article insinuated that Jerry Falwell, a televangelist, was a drunkard who had sexual relations with his mother in an outhouse.  Falwell successfully argued in the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal that he had been inflicted ‘emotional distress’ by the publications.[16]

Hustler magazine appealed the finding to the United States Supreme court, which unanimously found for the appellant.  Rehnquist C.J., while acknowledging that the case dealt with emotional distress rather than strict libel recognised that the issue was irrevocably tied with free speech when he stated that the case involved the “novel question involving First Amendment limitations upon a State's authority to protect its citizens from the intentional infliction of emotional distress.”[17]

Falwell argued that the ‘outrageousness’ of the statement meant it was not covered under the first amendment[18] , however Rehnquist CJ rejected this argument, believing public figures should be subject to scrutiny whether satirical (and therefore potentially emotionally distressing) or not. Rehnquist CJ succinctly argued ‘For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas."[19]

The Hustler case followed a liberalisation of libel laws in the United states following the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981.[20] In an article on defamation, Amspacher and Springer wrote how this liberalisation had the unintended consequence of allowing radio personalities to harass people without a legal remedy being available. [21]  plaintiff can escape a case in defamation by arguing that the defamatory statement was merely ‘humour’ and are thus protected by free speech.[22]

The authors draw a key distinction ‘opinion’ and ‘fantasy’, which both the U.S. court and Irish court would benefit from acting on, while protecting free speech of opinions, necessary for political satire  also noting ‘Humorists (sic) can, however, easily entertain their audiences without conveying any intelligible "opinion" in the course of their remarks’.[23] The authors raise the argument that a defamation act  should be restricted to cases where ‘after applying an objective test… no meaningful opinion that the speaker communicated (could be found)’.[24]

In conclusion it is submitted that there should to be a distinction drawn in law between   satire and defamation. However, there ought to be a more moderate approach than that taken in the United States, wherein free speech has taken prevalence over the right of individuals to a good name and instead insisted on an approach where courts distinguish a person’s ‘opinion’ (protected under free speech) from ‘fantasy’ designed to defame an individual.

[2]Article 40.3.2°.

[3] Article 40.6. 1° i.

[4] Bryan McMahon and William Binchy, The law of Torts (4th edn, Butterworths 2013) Para 34.05.

[5] Defamation act 2009 s 2.

[6] McMahon and Binchy (n4) Para 34.18, para 34.50.

[7]  Ibid Para 34.90.


[9] Law Reform Commission, Report on The Civil Law of Defamation (LRC CP 8— 1991).

[10] Ibid para 7.51.

[11] Ibid para 7.54.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Admin, ‘Meanwhile, In A Parallel Universe’ (August 6th, 2015) accessed 17/12/2017

[14] accessed 18/12/2017

[15] Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 US 46 (1988).

[16] Ibid 46.

[17] Ibid 50.

[18] Ibid 52-53.

[19] Ibid 56.

[20] Catherine L. Amspacher and Randel Steven Springer, ‘Humor, Defamation and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: The Potential Predicament for Private Figure Plaintiffs’ (1990) 31 WMLR 701.

[21] Ibid 701-702.

[22] Ibid 734.

[23] Ibid 730.

[24] Ibid 731.

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