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The Picture of Brian Cowen

One can imagine Mr. Cowen’s feelings when he learned of the hanging of two pictures of him in public, in which pictures he was shown, by implication only, as naked; firstly, possibly in the loo and secondly, holding his underpants.

The pictures were to some degree, caricatures.

It is a defamation to lower someone in the eyes of right thinking members of society. If the defamation is a picture it is a libel. A libel is the making of statements in permanent form that disparage the plaintiff or tend to bring him into ridicule or contempt.

For a small review of Irish law on defamation see this earlier post HERE.

Mr. Cowen is not a normal person; he is the Taoiseach. As such, he must accept that he is open to comment and attack more than a private person. In short, attacks on him have the benefit of qualified privilege where such attacks, directed towards private persons, would not have that privilege.

What do the pictures say of him?

Possibly the following;

He is a human being;

He is a failure as a politician (he is without cover and “is in the toilet”)

He is not handsome;

He is unashamed of his failings/disadvantages:

These are mild statements to be made of a Taoiseach. They were made before, as appears to be the case, he procured the confiscation of the pictures by the police, including other pictures made by the same artist with a view to prosecuting the artist on public decency (or indecency) grounds.

Now to say that of the Taoiseach is a serious charge. But it is warranted, given the events. In the light of that, the implied comments of the pictures are mild.

One Comment

  1. One of the “charges” suggested by the Gardaí was incitement to hatred.

    Definition of “hatred” in Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act is “hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation”.

    BC is not a group of persons, and the grounds of hatred are not covered in the defintion. The Gardaí must have known this.

    Therefore, were they being disingenuous and just trying to scare Today FM, or were they relying on some other or common law incitement definition?

3 Trackbacks

  1. By » Cowengate and Freedom of Expression on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:40 am

    […] tendency to deprave and corrupt (R v Hicklin (1868) LR 3 QB 360). [I leave aside questions of civil defamation or other similar claims, as they would not implicate criminal investigation and/or prosecution]. […]

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