US Senator ‘alarmed’ by Ireland’s ‘censorious’ hate crime Bill

Ireland’s new hate crime law risks censoring meaningful public debate, a US politician has warned.

In a letter to Ireland’s US Ambassador, Senator JD Vance said the proposed legislation could “undermine” the nation’s “proud tradition of free speech”.

The Government’s controversial Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 is currently at Committee Stage in the Seanad Éireann.

‘Frighteningly broad sweep’

Vance described the Bill as “full of vague prohibitions that would chill important public debate if they were to become law, particularly with respect to the most controversial and publicly significant matters”.

He told Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason: “Although the proposed law is vague, one can guess at its frighteningly broad sweep from the comments of supportive legislators.

“Promoting the bill in a speech to the Seanad Éireann, Senator Pauline O’Reilly commented that this law was consistent with the purpose of ‘all law’— the ‘restriction of freedom’.

“Rather than allow people to speak their minds on sensitive subjects, O’Reilly claims the law would protect people from ‘discomfort’ associated with ‘views’ about their ‘identities’.”

I am alarmed that a democracy dedicated to upholding cherished freedoms, should undertake such legislation


The Senator for Ohio continued: “The United States routinely condemns similar censorious conduct from China, Myanmar, or Iran.

“Indeed, earlier this year, the U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions on Iranian government officials believed to be involved in censoring peaceful protestors and ‘inhibiting their rights to freedom of expression [and] peaceful assembly.’

“I am alarmed that one of our closest friends, a democracy dedicated to upholding cherished freedoms, should undertake such legislation.”

Subjective and stifling

In August, a rank-and-file representative of the gardaí said time-consuming ‘hate crime’ investigations will take officers away from street-level policing.

Detective Garda Mark Ferris stated that such a law appears to create “an opaque legal climate where offences will be a matter of subjective interpretation”.

Former Attorney General Senator Michael McDowell has called for the Bill to be amended, warning it could become “a charter for freezing genuine free speech and prevent people from articulating unpopular views”.

Also see:

Critics of RoI hate crime Bill forecast ‘free speech big freeze’

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

Free speech concerns dog Ireland’s hate crime bill

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

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