The main legislative support for literature in Ireland is the Arts Act (2003), which established the Arts Council. Writers are supported through grants for artists and arts organisations. Writers can also apply to Revenue Commissioners for tax exemption on earning up to EUR 50,000 from the sale of their work. The works must be deemed to be original and creative. This is supported by Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act. (See chapter 4.1.4 for more information.)
The Censorship of Publications Act (1929) still exists in Ireland. It is an act “to make provision for the prohibition of the sale and distribution of unwholesome literature”. While it is very rarely used in modern times, the legislation has not been changed. The last time a book was banned was in 2016, which was the first time since 1998. After the 2018 repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which provides for the legal termination of pregnancy, references to abortion were removed from the Censorship of Publications Act (1946). In 2019, the Department of Justice confirmed that several publications providing information about abortion were to be removed from the Register of Prohibited Publications.
While freedom of speech is protected under the Constitution of Ireland, it is forever in battle with the interpretation of the Defamation Act (2009) in Ireland. The law of defamation in Ireland is governed by the Constitution, common law and the DefamationAct. According to the Act, a defamatory statement is one, which tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.
The imbalance between these legislations determines press freedom in Ireland. Currently, Ireland’s defamation laws pose “a significant threat to press freedom” according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In 2019, the NGO stated “frequent defamation suits and the extraordinarily high damages awarded by Irish courts also posed a significant threat to press freedom”. According to Lawyer.ie, 80% of defamation actions are taken against the media. A libel action carries the real threat of bankrupting a small newspaper. According to RSF, the possibility of exorbitant damages, combined with the high costs of defending defamation suits, has resulted in a climate of self-censorship, in which prominent individuals known to be litigious become largely untouchable by the Irish media. Despite these real concerns, RSF has ranked Ireland quite well at 13 out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, an increase from 15 in 2019.