OFMDFM spokeswoman: “The Defamation Bill was never considered by the Executive”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke has a glimpse behind the curtain at ministerial manoeuvring around the failure to consent to the UK Defamation Bill.  From the Belfast Telegraph article

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 It was withdrawn in mid-June 2012.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”.

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  • aquifer

    Or: No talking at the back of the class Sonny!

    Good old Sammy. He will have us in short trousers next.

  • Framer

    What we need is a private member’s bill to go through Stormont as soon as possible and more transparency as to when NI is being left out of Westminster legislation.

  • Hopping The Border

    It is ridiculous that Herr Sammy, nor any of the executive have provided reasons for the non-application of the Act to NI (bar a letter from a solicitor).

    As another article in the telegraph stated:

    “Why should the citizens of Northern Ireland not be afforded the same protection as those in the rest of the UK in using social media? Why should we continue to be governed by archaic freedom of expression laws – some of them conceived when computing was in its infancy?”


  • nilehenri

    interesting that people express surprise at a divergence in thinking between the assembly and westminster, wasn’t that the very point of devolution? and while the english have levinson and the impending scandal to worry about the people of the north simply don’t have a pressing need for reform in this area, we have other, more important things to deal with.

  • Hopping The Border

    What I am expressing surprise at is the lack of reasons why it is not also being implemented here.

  • Pete Baker


    If you believe the anonymous OFMDFM source, that a consent motion here on this reforming legislation on defamation was unilaterally nixed by Sammy Wilson, or even the DUP alone – a month after submitting a paper on the legislation – without the consent of their partners in crime the joint holders of OFMDFM, then you should be asking ‘what are Sinn Féin doing about that?’

    Other than briefing the media that it was nothing to do with them, guv. Honest… – See anonymous OFMDFM source.

    [The blatant contempt for the views of the rest of the supposedly power-sharing Executive is taken for granted by now.]

    But if you do believe that anonymous source, well, I have a bridge for sale…

  • nilehenri

    @hopping: orange filibustering.