How the Government fails the ‘Pinocchio’ test

How the Government fails the ‘Pinocchio’ test in its answer to concerns about the ‘Hate Speech’ Bill. A correspondent of mine wrote to a Government TD about how the controversial ‘Hate Speech’ legislation could curb freedom of expression.

The reply, whether from Party headquarters or penned by the TD himself, was a masterpiece of spin and evasion. I analyse it here and give it the ‘Pinocchio’ fact-checker test:

The TD writes: ‘Hate crime is a real and lasting problem in Ireland today’

My response: Everyone knows that hate is an unpleasant feature of human relations. We will always need appropriate and proportionate responses to help reduce it. Most noteworthy here is that the TD wasn’t asked about the ‘hate crime’ aspect of the Bill (where existing offences such as assault are made more serious if proven to be motivated by hatred). My friend was concerned by limitations on free speech by the prohibition of incitement to ‘hatred’ – with ‘hatred’ so far undefined. If by ‘real and lasting problem’, the TD means ‘substantial problem’, there are no useful available figures on dangerous ‘hate speech’ amounting to crime…

TD: Ireland stands alone among European nations in not having introduced statutory protections from hate crime.

R: The TD has still chosen not to address the more controversial ‘hate speech’ element, focusing on the less controversial ‘hate crime’ part. Is he leaving his correspondent with the impression that we have no legislation banning speech that incites hatred? The 1989 Act is there, ready to be amended if needed.

TD: If the harm of hate is to be acknowledged and countered, it falls on us as legislators to act to provide a legislative framework for the explicit naming of bias crime.

R: Still talking about ‘hate crimes’ I notice, but is the Government admitting for the first time that it sees ‘hate’ as meaning ‘bias’? Is a Government Party finally revealing its hand on what it means by ‘hatred’ and why it has failed to define it in the Bill?

TD: ‘Ireland must join other nations in ensuring the violence of hate experienced by vulnerable individuals and communities is challenged head-on.’

R: Note that the TD does not say ‘violence caused by hate’ but ‘the violence of hate’. So ‘hate’ is automatically ‘violence’. And so ‘hate speech’ is violence? No. While speech should be criminalised if it incites violence, SPEECH ITSELF IS NOT VIOLENCE. There is international guidance here which the Government has ignored: “measures to combat hate speech should be appropriate and proportionate to the level of severity of its expression; some expressions of hate speech warrant a criminal law response, while others call for a civil or administrative law response, or should be dealt with through measures of a non-legal nature…”

TD: ‘(victims) remain at risk of repeated victimisation.’

R: A harsh law which is widely viewed as unjust may not be properly implemented for fear of injustice, and thus do little or nothing to dissuade the true haters. Alternatively, other people will be victimised by being deprived of their right to express legitimate views freely.

TD: ‘(this is) not an attempt to criminalise opinions and discourse, but to tackle extreme forms of hate speech that deliberately and recklessly incite or stir up acts of hostility, discrimination or violence’

R: Ah, look’it! The words ‘stir up’, ‘deliberately’, ‘extreme’ and ‘hostility’ are absent from the new Bill. Those words could have been included. The Bill does not distinguish extreme forms of hatred from stupidity, or from opinionated or robust speech. The European standard for freedom of expression allows for words that ‘offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’

TD: While freedom of speech is enshrined in both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, limits may be placed on it by law in order to protect other fundamental rights.

R: Agreed, but the international way proposes: ‘the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it duties and responsibilities’ and that ‘any restriction of this right must…. (be) narrowly construed and comply with the requirements of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality to the legitimate aims.’

TD: ‘The Bill takes a balanced approach in protecting freedom of expression and ensuring that the rights of minority and vulnerable communities are protected from hate speech.’

R: A lack of balance has dogged this Bill going back to the first public consultations in 2019. By not defining ‘hatred’ and by effectively penalising a thought crime, this Bill, if enacted, will have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of anyone who wishes to publicly contradict, for example, a government narrative on a controversial issue of the day. Its vagueness will invite ‘pile-ons’ by those who feel they have a right not to be offended, getting social media platforms to silence certain voices.

TD: ‘The inclusion of a general provision to further protect genuine freedom of expression, including genuine contributions to literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic discourse, and fair and accurate reporting…’

R: Section 11, on ‘Freedom of Expression’ was inserted as an afterthought and adds nothing. Journalists and politicians may not feel the heat with their ‘genuine’ contributions but the woman with the placard defending womanhood will. People should not have to wait until they are before a judge and jury to find out whether their robust freedom of expression has put them outside the law. The verdict: For failing to acknowledge existing statutory measures against ‘incitement to hatred’, for equating ‘hate’ with ‘bias’, for suggesting ‘hate’ is ‘violence’, and for suggesting that certain key words might be in the Bill when they are in fact absent – four Pinocchios is the appropriate response to the TD’s letter. Not much direct falsehood, but a misleading idea in nearly every paragraph. I also note that the TD’s (standard?) letter gave no explanation for the smuggling of a controversial new definition for ‘gender’ into the Bill, another issue that his correspondent raised. Please continue to make your views known…


NGOs write to Endorse Hate Speech Bill

A letter from 20 civil society organisations (NGOs) “representing groups commonly targeted by hate crime in Ireland” was published in the Irish Times [26/03/23], expressing unequivocal support for the Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences Bill 2022.

The letter informs us that “Hate crimes are message crimes: they tell members of minority communities they are not safe. A single action goes beyond the individual person targeted, hurting entire communities and society as a whole.”

The Coalition the 20 NGOs have formed

Leaving aside the fact that it is far from obvious how a single crime that is motivated by hate manages to hurt entire communities and society as a whole, is there some irrefragable reason why someone who is not a member of a minority community couldn’t also be a victim of a hate crime?

According to the signatories of the letter, the legislation is to be welcomed because it recognises “the additional harm caused by a crime that targets a person’s inherent identity…”

Might I suggest that it’s not obvious what this additional harm might be and, even if there were any such harm, why it should be more worthy of legal sanction than forms of additional harms from psychological attitudes such as envy, jealousy or covetousness that other crime victims might suffer?

The tenor of the letter clearly indicates that its signatories regard the Bill as a legislative instrument to punish and inhibit what they regard as a kind of group-crime. Putting to one side the not inconsiderable difficulty with understanding how a crime against an individual can be, as it were, a crime against a whole group, it is also not easy to see how according specific groups special privileges that are not accorded to the population at large sits easily with article 40.1 of the Constitution which reads: “All citizens shall as human persons, be held equal before the law.”

article 40.1 of the Constitution reads: “All citizens shall as human persons, be held equal before the law.”

In any case, the signatories to this letter are happy to assure us that “the vast majority of the population recognises hate crime as a high priority in policing.”

Really? I don’t know how they can claim to know this to be the case, and those who signed the letter are modestly reticent about providing evidence for it. That being so, I hope I won’t be considered rude if, despite their breezy assurance, I remain sceptical about the veracity of this claim.


Hate Speech Bill Press Conference

Free Speech Ireland are hosting a Press Conference in Buswells Hotel this Thursday along with numerous Irish Senators opposed to the Hate Speech Bill. We invite all members of the press to attend.

Email us at if you wish to be on the guestlist.


Letter to the President Campaign

Paddy Holohan encouraged members of the public to send letters to Áras an Uachtaráin and post themselves doing it with the hashtag #lettertothepresident.

Paddy Holohan, an independent councillor for South Dublin County Council, has voiced concern with the government’s Hate Speech Bill, and has encouraged people, families, and communities to contact their local representatives to voice their opposition to legislation which is being passed without mandate.

The constitutionality of the legislation will be considered by President Michael D. Higgins, who should scrutinise the law with consideration for the provisions for freedom of expression laid out in Bunreacht na hÉireann. If he doubts it’s legality, he must send it to the Supreme Court to examine it. By sending letters to Áras an Uachtaráin, public pressure can be mounted against the legislation which threatens to restrict freedom of expression in Ireland for the sake of the Irish government’s political expediency.


Hate Speech Bill Deep Dive

A Free Speech Ireland Spokesperson joined The Jist for a deep-dive on the Hate Speech Bill and it’s historical context


Irish Hate Speech Bill Enters Public Debate

Since the beginning of its drafting process, the Irish government’s Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 has been largely absent from public discourse, receiving scant media attention. With the legislation’s existence unknown to most Irish citizens, let alone the excessive restrictions it threatens to impose on freedom of expression in Ireland. 

Recently, however, following the legislation passing the final stage of Dáil Eireann’s drafting process, international and domestic attention has been focused on the government’s Hate Speech Bill. This media attention, likely a product of the amplification given by Elon Musk and Donald Trump Jr.’s commentary regarding the legislation on Twitter, has precipitated further debate as the Bill reaches the Seanad.

Receiving international attention, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson has also commented on the nature of hate speech legislation more broadly, linking Ireland’s nascent Hate Speech Bill to the broader context of cancel culture and the restriction of freedom of expression seen throughout the Western world in recent years. 

Subsequently, debate around free speech in Ireland has become more prominent. The recently appointed President of University College Dublin, Orla Feely, has recently commented on the necessity of free speech on college campuses, citing its necessity as a component of mature, democratic societies.

Liam Herrick, the executive director of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties has too, criticised aspects of the legislation, specifically article 10, which would criminalise the possession of content deemed to be hateful, irrespective as to the individual’s intention to distribute it or not. Concern from the left-wing political party People Before Profit has also been expressed regarding this troublesome clause, which TD Paul Murphy warned as effectively the introduction of thought crime into Irish law.

The disregard for public consultation the Irish government has maintained with its introduction of this legislation is worrisome, as in a late 2019 public survey conducted by the government in relation public reception of prospective hate speech legislation, 73% of respondents, voiced negativeopinions towards such a law.

Though the legislation has passed the Dáil, hopefully the recent growth in public awareness and criticism of the legislation will facilitate further amendments to the law in the Seanad. Senators Ronan Mullen and Sharon Keoghan have previously voiced their concerns with the legislation, and though the Seanad may not have the ability to veto this Hate Speech Bill, it may amend the law in such a way that its threat to freedom of expression in Ireland may be mitigated or reduced in some way.


The Hate Speech Bill: Final Dáil Stage

The final stage of the Bill in the lower house of the Oireachtas played out on Wednesday. The controversial legislation was published last October and will have dire ramifications for those who are deemed to have engaged in “reckless communication or behaviour that is likely to incite violence or hatred”.

Even if enacted without its greater powers, the Bill would have a “chilling effect”. However, many proponents of the Bill are adamant on its more draconian sections and clauses. They have cited that its to-be predecessor, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, is obsolete because it has only led to a few dozen convictions in its lifetime.

Despite the importance of the Bill, government legislators weren’t exactly present in great number ..

The fifth and final stage of the Dáil is when final statements are made on a bill and the amendments made to it in earlier sections. The legislators had little to say that had not already been heard – all but People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy.

Subsequently, the unexpected champion of free speech introduced amendments to the house:

The latter amendment looked to remove Section 10 of the Bill, one of the more draconian sections. Despite these efforts, no changes were made to the Bill, and it has continued on the Seanad. In light of this, we encourage you to contact your local TD’s, who’s details can be found here, and to sign and share our petition.


On the Posie Parker “Let Women Speak” rally in Belfast

In the run-up to an event this weekend held by Kellie-Jay Keen, a.k.a. Posie Parker, a Gender-Critical Feminist and outspoken voice in the debate around Gender Idealogy, we are seeing many calls to violence and to otherwise “no-platform” the event, to prevent her from speaking.

Keen being escorted away after a mob cancelled her event last month in Auckland, New Zealand

We at Free Speech Ireland wish to condemn in the strongest terms calls for no platforming and the preventing of someone’s right to speak in public.

Gender Idealogy and Transgenderism is one of the most controversial issues in politics today, triggering strong emotions on all sides of the debate. In a free and civil society, the only way to resolve this is open debate in good faith.

Those radical activists attempting to no-platform and prevent her from speaking have no intention of engaging in good faith, believing it is impossible that they could be wrong. They are a tiny minority who are not representative of the average Irish person, who values tolerance and civility, and ones right to honestly disagree out of sincere belief.

All those who believe in open debate around difficult issues must oppose these attempts to silence opposing views in public.


Hate Speech Bill Enters 4th Stage

The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 has entered the 4th stage of the Oireachtas law-making process. This means that it is almost finished in the Dáil and will soon move on to the second house of the Oireachtas, the Seanad.

It does not seem as though any significant changes have been implemented throughout the past stages; the Bill still enables censorship based on gross speculation, and the provision for freedom of expression is perhaps the most poorly defined part of the Bill:

For the purposes of this Part, any material or behaviour is not taken to incite violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics or any of those characteristics solely on the basis that that material or behaviour includes or involves discussion or criticism of matters relating to a protected characteristic.

Section 11 – “Protection of freedom of expression”

In light of this, we encourage you to contact your local TD’s, who’s details can be found here, and to sign and share our petition.


Wicklow Campaign Launches

Following the mantle of Justice Minister transferring to Simon Harris from Helen McEntee, Free Speech Ireland launched an awareness campaign in Harris’ constituency, Wicklow.

FSI activists distributed leaflets in Greystones earlier today

The Justice Minister is the sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech Bill and as such holds primary responsibility for it. Answering a question in the Oireachtas, Harris had the following to say about the Bill:

Minister McEntee published the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill last October which addresses both incitement to hatred or violence and hate crime.

Once enacted the Bill will criminalise any intentional or reckless communication or behaviour that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or persons because they are associated with a protected characteristic, and will create new “hate crime” offences where specific offences are aggravated by hate of a protected characteristic.

While the Bill could have dire ramifications for freedom of expression, Wicklow constituents had not heard of it, or that Harris was its sponsor. The following leaflet was distributed to raise awareness:

front of leaflet
back of leaflet