Cyberbullying Bill 2013: First Stage

We now move to the initiation of Private Members' Bills. In accordance with the new Standing Orders, I am obliged to advise Deputy Troy that he is entitled to make a brief statement not exceeding five minutes when seeking leave to introduce his Bill.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to address and prevent cyberbullying.

Unfortunately, we are all aware of the recent deaths of teenagers who were allegedly victims of cyberbullying. For those who are unaware of the nature of cyberbullying, it is a practice whereby technologies such as text, pictures, video clips, websites and chat rooms, are used in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner by an individual or group and in a manner that is intended to harm others. A recent survey highlighted the incidence of cyberbullying among Irish teenagers as among the highest in the 26 European countries surveyed. A recent paper by the Psychological Society of Ireland, which was presented to the society's annual conference in Cork last year, found evidence that cyberbullying had far-reaching and long-term impacts on those affected.

The Fianna Fáil Party recognises that cyberbullying is a public health and educational issue. We strongly endorse many of the Ombudsman's recommendations in this regard. It is imperative that we encourage children and young people to take responsibility for their words and actions online and make them aware of the impact their words and actions can have. However, while preventive measures are intrinsic to tackling cyberbullying, we need to deal with the deficiencies in current criminal law by creating a stand-alone offence of cyberbullying. This step was called for in the recent report by the Government's special rapporteur on child protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, in which he pointed out that the growth of cyberbullying has, almost overnight, created a readily accessible forum for bullies to target children with little or no regulation or sanction. He points out that the legal system has been taken somewhat unawares as to the manner and means through which children have fallen victim to cyberbullying. He states that while there are some legislative provisions in place that could be interpreted in such a manner as to tackle this growing problem, a focused response is required. It is in light of Dr. Shannon's comments that my party is introducing this Bill, the purpose of which is tackle obvious deficiencies in the legal system and its failure to advance in tandem with technology.

While laws are in place to deal with harassment through the postal network - snail mail as it is known - and through stalking and so forth, no legislation is in place to deal with advances in technology. We are introducing the Bill in the hope that the Government will afford the House an opportunity to debate and act on it, as recommended by the Government's special rapporteur on child protection.

I am presenting this Bill in the hope that the Government will afford us an opportunity to debate and act on it, as recommended by the rapporteur on child protection.

I wish to use this opportunity to highlight the need for a strategy and framework to implement the recommendations in the rapporteur's annual reports. It is pointless to prepare such reports when so many of their recommendations are ignored. That in itself speaks volumes about the need to act on recommendations. This is an important recommendation and it is why we are introducing this Bill, which we hope the Government will adopt.

This is a good change in that Deputy Troy was able to put his case briefly on an important subject.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.