UK-wide legislation like the Defamation Bill can be extended to here by a motion of ‘Legislative Consent’ passed at the Assembly. A minister, though, must submit proposals to the Executive.
The Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP), which is headed by Sammy Wilson, is responsible in this case. On May 22 last year Mr Wilson submitted a paper on the legislation to the Executive. Normally that would be passed to the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM) where DUP and Sinn Fein backroom teams would table it for discussion.
In this case, however, Mr Wilson withdrew it before it was reached by the backroom teams. “It wasn’t in the system very long… and someone somewhere prompted Sammy to withdraw it without consideration,” an OFMDFM source said. It was withdrawn in mid-June 2012.
The DUP alone has expressed hostility to the reforms.
When the Bill was debated at Westminster last June, Ian Paisley jnr led the attack on it just days before Mr Wilson withdrew his paper here.
And the positions of the other NI Executive parties? Assuming that they have a position… From a previous Slugger post
Last Wednesday [13 March], the News Letter revealed that the Defamation Bill – the first reform of the UK’s libel laws since the 19th Century – had been blocked from extending to Northern Ireland by Stormont’s leaders.
However, the SDLP and Alliance Party have since said that they support the reform. And the SDLP said that the decision was not taken by the five-party Executive but by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ department [OFMDFM].
Back to the Belfast Telegraph article
A spokeswoman for DFP said: “Defamation is a civil law matter and, accordingly, it falls within DFP’s remit. There are no plans to review the law on defamation in Northern Ireland.”
An OFMDFM spokeswoman said: “The Defamation Bill was never considered by the Executive”.