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Defamation law must not have chilling effect on legitimate public debate - Rabbitte

31 January 2014

The Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D, today made the following statement:

“Speaking personally, I have never used the term ‘homophobe’ to describe those who disagree with me on issues of gay equality in general or gay marriage in particular. It is too loaded a term to be used to categorise those who hold contrary views on what is a matter for legitimate public debate.

That said, I would also hope that people and institutions that hold themselves out as commentators on, or contributors to, public debate fully appreciate – as most politicians do – that debate can be robust, heated, personal and sometimes even hostile. If you enter the arena, you cannot expect that the Queensberry Rules will always apply.

It would be a matter of serious concern if recourse to our defamation laws was to have a chilling effect on the conduct of public debate on this issue, in the lead-in to the forthcoming referendum on gay marriage. I have no intention of interfering in RTÉ’s management of the litigation claims against it. But I do expect that RTÉ remains fully committed to its chief obligation as a public service broadcaster – to ensure the full and free exchange of information and opinion on all matters of legitimate public interest.”
ENDS

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