Thursday, 8 February 2024
Digital Services Bill 2023: Motion for Earlier Signature
That, pursuant to subsection 2° of section 2 of Article 25 of the Constitution, Seanad Éireann concurs with the Government in a request to the President to sign the Digital Services Bill 2023 on a date which is earlier than the fifth day after the date on which the Bill shall have been presented to him.
I thank Senator Ahearn for moving the earlier signature motion. The Government's decision to seek this motion was not taken lightly but is judged necessary due to the extremely tight timetable for enactment and commencement of the Bill in advance of the EU deadline of 17 February.
The Bill is necessary for the full implementation in Ireland of the EU regulation known as the Digital Services Act. Senators will be aware that 13 of the 22 very large online platforms and search engines designated under the DSA are established in Ireland. Consequently, Ireland has a pre-eminent and high-profile role in supporting the European Commission in regulating them. In view of the critical role it has in the overall EU framework for enforcing this regulation, Ireland is under considerable pressure from the EU to fulfil its obligations in this regard rigorously and comprehensively. Failure to enact the Bill in advance of the mandatory EU deadline of 17 February would cast Ireland in a poor light and draw a high level of political criticism from across the EU.
The EU only allowed a comparatively short window between its adoption of the regulation on 16 November 2022 and the mandatory deadline of 17 February 2024 for member states to enact the necessary national legislation.The challenge of this short window was compounded by the high technical nature of this novel legislation and the need to align it closely with the Broadcasting Act 2009, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014. This required significant time for drafting, resulting in a very tight schedule for passage through the Oireachtas and enactment of the legislation. In view of these considerations, this is why the Government is seeking this early signature motion to ensure the Bill can be enacted.
I genuinely want to thank Senators for taking this motion and the Bill in the way that they did at the end of a long day. I pay tribute to the officials in my Department who are here with us today and have worked extraordinarily hard to ensure that we got this. I wish our Digital Services Commissioner, Mr. John Evans, and his team at Coimisiún na Meán every success as we now hand the baton over to them. However, there is still a week's work to be done by my officials to get this ready for 17 February. It is not my normal way of doing business and I assure the House that the commitments I have given here today will be followed through.