With a sold-out event and 100’s on the waiting list, it is clear that #IrelandUncensored was a momentous success. Despite this resounding demonstration from the Irish public,
Helen McEntee’s plans to push through the Hate Speech Bill when the Seanad resumes on Wednesday, 20 September.
Speaking to Gript Media our Spokesperson, Sarah Hardiman, had the following to say,
“ At the time when this law hit the Seanad, senators were very cognisant of the public’s concerns … Today’s event was about really making sure that come the end of the summer recess, that they are still listening to the public. ”
During a panel discussion on the Censorship Industrial Complex, Michael Shellenberger said that the Hate Speech Bill was “the worst law I have seen in my entire career of working on political issues”.
Laoise de Brún of The Countess provided a deep-dive of the Hate Speech Bill and the EU Directive “that apparently compelled the government to introduce this bill”.
She had the following to say about Section 10 of the Bill:
Gript’s Ben Scallan stressed the importance of raising our concerns with our political representatives, “when a politician knocks on your door […] make it known to them that censorship is something you’re worried about.”
The livestream of the event can be watched back here:
With the government’s recently published “Hate Speech” Bill proving to be the most controversial piece of legislation in recent Irish history, many are deeply concerned over the state of free speech and encroaching censorship in our country.
In response to this legislation, Free Speech Ireland and Gript invite all to attend a conference and seminar featuring a variety of expert speakers who will explain why this censorship is happening, where it is coming from, and what we can do to defeat it.
Michael Shellenberger – Author and Public Relations Professional
Niall Boylan – Radio Presenter and host of The Niall Boylan Podcast
Helen Joyce – Author and Journalist
Kevin Sharkey – Artist and former TV Presenter
John McGuirk – Editor of Gript
Senator Sharon Keogan – Irish Independent Senator
Ben Scallan – Broadcaster for Gript
More speakers to be announced.
Doors open at 12:30pm with event set to conclude at 5pm.
Freedom of Speech is a human right fundamental to the functioning of any true democracy, all attempts to take this right away must be emphatically rejected.
Sarah Hardiman is the spokesperson for “Free Speech Ireland”, a group advocating for the protection of freedom of speech, expression and assembly in Ireland.
The past fortnight in Ireland has seen “cancel-culture” reach a new and frightening precipice as an Irish sustainability and rural-life festival, “Think Local”, was shut down due to vociferous lobbying of left wing activism.
A self-professed “antifa” activist took credit for the event’s demise and called an event organiser to boast at their success in destroying an event that took several months to plan. The festival was due to host subject matter experts in areas such as medicine and psychology, as well as academics of various disciplines.
What was the perceived danger of a group of individuals hosting, amongst other things, a family- friendly BBQ, food-growing workshops and childrens’ face painting? The answer is simple: community.
In a multi-polar Ireland, we have embraced people of various beliefs, political persuasions and lifestyle choices. All of these aspects of life vary in Ireland and, naturally, community binds people of similar outlooks to support and strengthen one another. The premise of “Think Local” appears to have clearly been such an event. How could an event focusing on small businesses and sustainability issues, such as home-grown food and independent farming, pose any kind of harm to Irish society and its many diverse subcultures?
Ireland is marked as one of the most tolerant, inclusive and welcoming societies. So, why then are we seeing a distinct rise in “intolerance”? We are undeniably witnessing the rise of intolerance and strengthening authoritarianism, namely by means of the impending Hate Speech laws. An attack on free assembly of citizens is an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
The proposed Hate Speech Bill is causing a significant raucous within the government ranks, particularly in the Seanad. Also, at the recent Young Fine Gael summer school attendees passed a motion opposing this bill.
Young Fine Gael should be commended for their decision to challenge their party’s failures in introducing this bill. This bill will attack these freedoms directly. At the heart of freedom of expression, is the freedom of people with whom you fundamentally disagree, or even personally dislike, to hold opinions and values you may find offensive and repugnant. That is the essence of true freedom and tolerance; a point lost on our current Minister for Justice and other members of the government who insist that this law is somehow demanded by the public or necessary for the safety of the Irish people.
Who will be stewards ensuring the efficacy of the Hate Speech laws? Ireland’s NGO sector, which receives billions annually from various government grants and schemes. The sentiment of the activist responsible for the cancelling of the “Think Local” meeting mirrors the policy lobbying of the Irish NGO sector. This sector has had enormous influence on the Hate Speech Bill, particularly in its attempt to codify identity politics into Irish legislation by giving priority to people of specified characteristics should they perceive offence from anyone for any reason. If our laws impinge on the freedom to disagree or collectively organise, we risk reverting to a time marred with institutional overreach, true suppression of minorities and criminalising people of goodwill.
The cancellation of the “Think Local” festival is proof that discriminatory lobbying of private groups and individuals can successfully impede the guaranteed freedom of expression. The private and NGO sector of Ireland is flexing its influence, power and intolerance of those who simply don’t engage or are unaffected by the interests they promote. This cancellation will no doubt be counted amongst their victories.
If you support the idea of bringing your children to a drag-queen story hour because you value the LGBT community, or are a member thereof, why oppose story-telling at a rurally based eco-focused event? It might be due to the fact that you simply insist on your view of life being imposed everywhere you see fit. That is the essence of intolerance. Who is anyone to demand any festival, seminar, lecture or meetup kowtow to your religious, political or cultural preferences? It echoes the McQuaidist regime of 20th century Ireland.
The Irish public certainly cast off the authoritarian control of free speech restrictions when the blasphemy laws were repealed by popular referendum in 2018. Ireland has made it clear: we are unafraid of cultural, political and social diversity and wish for it to thrive freely in all varieties of association and speech. We also protect this right in Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution.
If cancel-culture continues in its tirade, unchallenged, the NGO sector will be the arbiters of what constitutes peaceful assembly and association. The attack on the “Think Local” festival will be repeated, businesses will be intimidated and bullied into cancelling good-faith customers and communities will experience a chilling effect.
We have come far as a nation in shaking off former state, church and institutional powers that failed us in this manner. Community power and freedom of association made it possible for Ireland to emerge from the corruption, restriction and hypocrisy of Ireland’s ancien régime. It would be a disaster to see a return to that at this stage of progress and liberty in our society.
Section 9 of the Hate Speech Bill begins by stating,
“A person may be found guilty of an offence under section 7 or 8 irrespective of whether the communication of material or behaviour [of] the subject of the offence was successful in inciting another person to violence or hatred”
As such, speech or material that would be criminal needn’t even incite hate. Furthermore, given Section 10, material needn’t have even been communicated to be criminal; it need merely be possessed.
From Sections 9 & 10 it is clear that the scope for criminalisation in the Bill encompasses non-extreme cases. As such, the claim that the Hate Speech Bill will only criminalise “extreme” cases of hate speech is false.
This is one of several claims made by Fine Gael and their representatives since the introduction of the Bill that downplay the severity of its role.
The various Fine Gael representatives who have been passed the mantle of Sponsor of the Hate Speech Bill have adamently expressed that the Bill will only criminalise “extreme” cases, despite the Bill itself includes no reference to the same. Deputy James Browne, who received responsibility of the Bill from Minister Simon Harris, expressed the following while defending the Bill in a Dáil debate:
“Only the most severe types of speech that constitute incitement to violence or hatred would be criminalised under the Bill.
Discussion of protected characteristics, including criticism of matters relating to protected characteristics, is not a crime unless it crosses the line into incitement to violence or hatred.”
Since progressing from the Dáil to the Seanad, the Bill has come under heavy scrutiny, and an earlier sponsor of the Bill, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, has retaken the mantle as its defender.
Speaking to Newstalk over the weekend, McEntee made sweepings claims about the Hate Speech Bill in an effort to placate the public,
“There will still be an ability for people to discuss and to criticise protected characteristics.”
“This is not about policing people’s thoughts or opinions and genuinely held beliefs”
These renewed claims about the Bill come on the heels of a contentious Seanad debate, in which support for the Bill in its current form was low. McEntee and Fine Gael senators have spent much of their speaking time asserting that the Bill in its current form is not extreme in nature, while admitting in the same speeches that the Bill does not define “hate” deliberately so as to boost conviction rates.
During the debate Senator Barry Ward expressed that freedom of speech is protected by Section 11 of the Bill.
Section 11 of the Bill, the “Protection of freedom of expression”:
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: material or behaviour is not taken to incite hatred solely on the basis that it includes discussion of protected characteristics
Effectively, this section states that speech should not be criminalised solely because it references sensitive topics. In other words, it states that it will not necessarily be illegal to speak about certain topics, which is a far cry from the rigorous protection for freedom of speech the section is made out to be by Fine Gael.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.