Irish Govt claims ‘broad support’ for hate speech Bill despite huge public opposition

Ireland’s Justice Minister has said the vast majority of people want new hate crime laws, despite being presented with compelling evidence to the contrary.

Commending the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 to the Seanad, Helen McEntee TD claimed “general support” for hate speech legislation.

At a press conference the following day, McEntee maintained her position, despite being confronted with results from an online Government consultation showing seven out of ten respondents opposed the measures.

Public opposition

In her opening speech to Senators on Tuesday, McEntee cited “a 29% increase in reported ‘hate crimes’ in 2022 compared to the previous year”.

She continued: “It is hard to believe that despite increasing instances of hate crime and general support from the public to criminalise such acts, Ireland does not have hate crime laws in place” before going on to accuse “fringe commentators” of sowing “deliberate misinformation and distortion”.

At the subsequent press conference, she was challenged by a reporter who reminded her that “of the thousands of replies to your own Government’s public consultation, 73 per cent were negative and according to the last poll done on the subject, 65 per cent of people oppose such laws”.

However, McEntee responded that her statement, based on support from minority groups and politicians, was “very clear” and “factual”.

Thought crime

In April, during a debate on the Bill in the Dáil, Paul Murphy TD said that the Government was in danger of criminalising someone in possession of supposedly ‘hateful material’, even if it remained private and harmed nobody.

Murphy warned that Section 10 of the legislation “creates the possibility of a person being criminalised purely for having material that is hateful, without that material being communicated to the public”.

He asked: “How can we hold people responsible for actions that they have not taken? That goes against the main thrust of our criminal law, which relates to actual crimes that take place, not bad thoughts that people have, that they write down.”

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