The Government has published its legislation programme for Spring 2021. The programme contains 32 bills for publication and prioritisation by the Government.

Key Bills of relevance to the communication service providers and technology sector include:

Bills where preparatory work is underway

  • Communications (Data, Retention and Disclosure) Bill – This Bill will revise and replace the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. The Heads of Bill were published in October 2017, following Mr. Justice Murray’s Report reviewing the ‘Law on the Retention of and Access to Communications Data’, which found that many aspects of the 2011 Act are prohibited by EU law. In Dwyer v Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, the High Court made a declaration that section 6(1)(a) of the 2011 Act is inconsistent with EU law, to the extent it allows telephony data to be retained on a general and indiscriminate basis. In February 2020, the Supreme Court referred questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in relation to this case. The new Bill is expected to take account of evolving jurisprudence in this area.

  • Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill– This Bill will amend several pieces of legislation in respect of electronic communications. In 2016, the government published a policy document discussing why this area of law needs to be amended (discussed here). The revised Heads of the Bill are in preparation.

  • Cybercrime Bill– This Bill will give effect to the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime 2001 not already provided for in national law, to enable ratification of the Convention.

Bills expected to undergo pre-legislative scrutiny (PLS)

  • Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill – This Bill will provide for the establishment of a Media Commission (including an Online Safety Commissioner), the dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, a regulatory framework to tackle the spread of harmful online content, and implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive 2018/1808. The heads of Bill were published on 9th January 2020, and 8th December 2020. Member States were due to implement the revised AVMS Directive in national law by 19th September 2020 and Ireland has missed this deadline.

  • Hate Crime Bill– This Bill will repeal the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, to provide for new and aggravated offences, including an offence of incitement. The Heads of Bill are in preparation.

Bills enacted since Government came into Office on 27th June 2020

  • Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 – This Act creates new offences in relation to harassment and harmful communications, both online and offline. This Act was signed into law by the President on 28th December 2020, but has not yet been published, nor have its provisions been commenced.

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