Irish Govt to push through hate crime Bill before next election

New Taoiseach Simon Harris has pledged to pass the Irish Government’s controversial ‘hate speech’ Bill before the next General Election.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today With Claire Byrne, the Fine Gael leader said he was “very clear” that the proposals would be passed before parties go to the polls, which must be held by 22 March 2025.

The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, which is being considered by the Seanad, is set to significantly expand and replace existing hate crime legislation in Ireland. It includes a new offence of inciting hatred against others based on their protected characteristics, which carries a possible five-year prison sentence.


The Taoiseach emphasised that the Bill would be amended to “address significant concerns”, such as its impact on free speech.

He acknowledged that politicians need to be “a bit more humble” when concerns are raised – an issue highlighted following the landslide defeats for the coalition’s plans to change the Irish Constitution to downgrade marriage and motherhood.

Harris said: “When enough people are saying ‘there’s a problem here’, it’s not putting your fingers in your ears and saying ‘la la la’ but actually trying to engage with people on the issue. That’s what we’ll try to do.”

Identity politics

Writing in The Irish Independent, journalist Lorraine Courtney criticised the Taoiseach for failing to heed Scotland’s “cautionary tale about the dangers of rushing into legislation without fully considering the consequences”.

She questioned, “as Harris forges ahead with his amended hate speech legislation, is he prepared for the backlash? Is he ready for the floodgates to open, inundating the authorities with complaints, some legitimate and most, well, maybe not legitimate?”

Courtney also questioned the Bill’s purpose, saying: “It seems to me that hate-crime laws only serve to further divide us, pitting one group against another in a never-ending game of identity politics.”

‘Runaway train’

Last month, the politician who first proposed changing Ireland’s hate crime law called the Bill “a runaway train”.

Charlie Flanagan suggested a review be taken of the existing Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 during his time as Justice Minister. But following the review’s conclusion, the law proposed by his successor Helen McEntee has provoked controversy.

Flanagan said he has received thousands of emails from concerned citizens, and told The Sunday Times he believes the Bill requires “radical surgery” to make it fit for purpose.

Also see:

Northern Ireland warned to ‘leave hate crime proposals well alone’

Police Scotland discovers just 3 per cent of 7,000 complaints are actually hate crimes

Poll: Almost half of Scots want ‘hate crime’ law ditched