They could also be hit with fines of up to €2,500 for engaging in sustained bullying, under the law proposed by former Labour Leader Brendan Howlin TD.
The law would also compel big tech and social media companies to co-operate with investigations into cyber-bullying, and make it far harder for abusers to hide behind anonymous accounts.
Deputy Howlin believes the bill could be passed by the Dail and come into effect before Christmas. Recent surveys, including one carried out by Vodaphone, have found that as many as one-in-four Irish teens have suffered cyber-bullying.
That survey of 5,000 young people nationwide found that Irish teenagers think cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying (60%) and over half (51%) believe it to be a bigger problem than drug abuse for young people.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee has assured Deputy Howlin that she fully supports his bill, the Irish Mirror reports today..
The Act, which will make online bullying a crime along with revenge porn, digital harassment, and online stalking, will be called Coco’s Law after young Dublin girl Nicole Fox Fenlon.
Affectionately known as Coco, the 21-year-old took her own life after being tormented by online bullies two years ago.
Her mother Jackie Fox has made it her life’s mission to get the law passed and will present Mr Howlin with a petition containing 35,000 signatures at Leinster House tomorrow.
The former Labour leader said: “The last time we updated these types of laws was when texting came in 30 years ago.
“The whole online world has exploded and we as a country did nothing to police it.
“We are putting an end to all this torment and abuse that young people like Nicole suffered.
“It will now be a criminal offense to bully someone online. There will be severe penalties and the culprits will be punished.
“All the tech firms will have to comply with the legislation and abusers will not be able to hide behind false names anymore.”
“Minister McEntee is fully behind this and I thank her and the Government for their support.”
Mr Howlin confirmed the Bill will go straight from the second stage to the Dail Justice Committee tomorrow.
There, members including himself will be able to submit more amendments if necessary.
Mr Howlin added: “Every time I raise this issue I get calls from families all over the country telling me their horror stories of how their loved ones died or attempted suicide.
“Almost everyone agrees we need to take action. The maximum penalty will be five years in jail at the top end of the scale.”
Jackie thanked everyone who has supported the campaign on behalf of her daughter.
She said: “I will be relieved when this law is finally passed and called after my little Coco.
“Nothing will bring her back but hopefully no other families will have to suffer what we did.”