A Threat to our Freedom of Expression and our Democracy

When: 9am-6.30pm, Thursday 23rd March 2023
Where: Trinity Long Room Hub, Fellow Square, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland and livestreamed online

How do SLAPPs work and, crucially, what can we do to stop them? At this full-day conference, attendees will hear from lawyers, journalists, academics, politicians, and campaigners, as well as from keynote speakers, UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor, and human rights campaigner Bill Browder.

This event is organised by Index on Censorship with support from Justice for Journalists Foundation and in partnership with Schuler Democracy Forum in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Trinity School of Law. The conference will take place in a hybrid format, accessible both via an online livestream and in-person. 

You can reserve your ticket for the Dublin conference and the online livestream here

What is a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP)? 

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are brought by powerful and wealthy entities against public watchdogs in an effort to compel them to withhold or remove critical coverage, even if it is accurate and in the public interest.

When SLAPPs successfully drive information out of the public domain, they can make it difficult to hold power to account. SLAPPs threaten not only our freedom of information, but our human rights, our rule of law, and our democracies. The use of this tactic to undermine criticism and evade scrutiny has proliferated globally but Ireland has been identified as a jurisdiction of concern in the EU.

Learn more about SLAPPs and what we can do to fight them. 

Conference Programme 

09.00 - 10.00

Introductory session

Welcome remarks by Index on Censorship and Trinity Long Room

Keynote Speech by Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders Hub

10.00 - 11.15

Holding power to account: A politician’s SLAPP

Ivana Bacik TD
, leader of the Labour Party

Lesley Caplin
, Of Counsel, Dentons

Eoghan McNeill, co-founder and editor, The Ditch

Sam McBride, Northern Ireland editor, Belfast Telegraph & Sunday Independent

Malachi O’Doherty, journalist, author and broadcaster

11.15 - 11.45

Coffee Break

11.45 - 13.00

SLAPPed: Environmental rights defenders and community groups

Neasa Hourigan TD
, Green Party

Declan Owens
, founder, Ecojustice Legal Action Centre

Kieran Cummins, ​​trained lawyer and founder, Eco Advocacy

Eoin Brady, partner, FP Logue

Shauna Corr, environment correspondent, Reach Ireland

13.00 - 14.30

Lunch Break

14.30 - 15.45

Big business: When the law is used to silence

Karlin Lillington
, columnist, The Irish Times

Tom Lyons
, chief executive, The Currency

Mark Hanna, assistant professor in media law, Durham University

Sarah Clarke, head of Europe and Central Asia, Article 19

John Devitt, chief executive, Transparency International Ireland

15.45 - 16.15

Coffee Break

Evening Session

16.15 - 17.00

Evening session

Opening remarks by Maria Ordzhonikidze, director, Justice for Journalists Foundation

Keynote Speech by Bill Browder, Head of Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign


How can we stop SLAPPs?

Bill Emmott
, former editor of The Economist and chair of Trinity Long Room Hub

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC
, barrister, Doughty Street Chambers

Eoin O’Dell, associate professor, Trinity School of Law

Jessica Ní Mhainín, head of policy and campaigns, Index on Censorship

Mark Tighe, reporter, The Sunday Independent

Meet the Speakers

Click on the image to see the speaker’s biography.

William Browder
CEO Hermitage Capital Management, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and Author of Red Notice and Freezing Order
Mary Lawlor
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Ivana Bacik
Leader of the Labour Party and TD for Dublin Bay South
Eoin Brady
Partner, FP Logue LLP
Lesley Caplin
Of Counsel, Dentons Ireland LPP
Sarah Clarke
Head of Article 19 Europe
Shauna Corr
Environment correspondent, Reach Ireland
Kieran Cummins
Trained lawyer and founder, Eco Advocacy
John Devitt
Founder, Transparency International Ireland
Bill Emmott
Former editor-in-chief of The Economist and chair of Trinity Long Room Hub
Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC
Barrister and international human rights lawyer
Mark Hanna
Assistant professor in media law at Durham Law School
Neasa Hourigan
Green Party TD for Dublin Central
Karlin Lillington
Award-winning journalist and columnist with the Irish Times
Tom Lyons
Chief executive, The Currency
Sam McBride
Northern Ireland Editor of the Belfast Telegraph and the Sunday Independent
Eoghan McNeill
Co-founder, The Ditch
Jessica Ní Mhainín
Head of policy and campaigns at Index on Censorship
Dr Eoin O'Dell
Associate professor of law, Trinity College Dublin
Malachi O'Doherty
Writer and journalist
Maria Ordzhonikidze
Director, Justice for Journalists Foundation
Declan Owens
CEO Ecojustice Ireland
Eve Patten
Director, Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Elspeth Payne
Coordinator, Schuler Democracy Forum, Trinity Long Room Hub
Mark Tighe
Senior news reporter, Sunday Independent

Reserve a free place

You can reserve your free ticket by clicking here 

What can I do?

Retweet this tweet to join our Twitter campaign to highlight the need to stop SLAPPs:

#SLAPPs: Do you know what they are and how they are used to undermine our democracy? 📽️ Find out by watching this video by @IndexCensorship #StopSLAPPs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb0ZUOdMBHg

Or save yourself the time and click this link to open a pre-written tweet for you.

Support Our Work

Index on Censorship is a non-profit organisation that campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views. We raise awareness about threats to free expression and the value of free speech as the first step to tackling censorship. 

Index relies entirely on the support of donors and readers to do its work. You can make a donation to our work here. 

Event Partners 

This event was made possible with the generous support of the Justice for Journalists Foundation