Ireland’s ‘reckless’ hate crime bill threatens free speech

Robust public debate may be stifled by new hate crime legislation in the Republic of Ireland, a newspaper columnist has warned.

Writing in The Sunday Times, David Quinn — the Director of the Iona Institute — said legitimate comment on topics such as gender and religion risked being caught under the remit of the Irish Government’s Hate Crime Bill.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee intends to publish the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Crime) Bill 2022 in September and enact it by the end of the year.

Hate speech

One of the main aims of McEntee’s proposed law, Quinn explained, “is to police speech or other actions that are judged to have caused hatred”.

“One wonders where this would leave the recent Liveline programmes on RTÉ Radio that discussed trans rights. Plenty of critics accused the show of stirring up hate. Would they be happy to see such discussions banned altogether under the proposed law, or Liveline prosecuted?”

Callers to the show debated, among other things, whether men who identify as women should be allowed to use single-sex changing rooms and the appropriateness of removing the word ‘mother’ from maternity legislation.

Following the broadcast, Dublin Pride ended its media partnership with RTÉ calling the content “unacceptable, triggering and extremely harmful”.


The newspaper columnist wondered whether public discussions and journalistic comment on other subjects, such as race, religion and immigration, might also be prosecuted under the “McEntee law”.

“At what point in such a discussion might someone be accused of causing hate? Where is the threshold?”, he asked.

Quinn concluded: “Opposition TDs need to interrogate McEntee.”

Only through such an interrogation, he reasoned, would it be possible to gain a “clear indication” of the Government’s commitment to free speech.

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