IRELAND UNCENSORED and the Hate Speech Bill

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:


Summer rain didn’t wash away Gov’s Authoritarian streak

‘Hate Speech’ Bill – Summer rain didn’t wash away the Government’s authoritarian streak

Over three months on and nothing seems to have changed. The ‘Hate Speech’ Bill is still on the agenda. The only people publicly supporting the Bill in its present form are Fine Gael (pointedly ignoring their youth wing), and the few NGOs who were complicit in concocting it.

Those supporting the Bill hide behind its ‘hate crime’ elements, rather than expose their draconian view on what constitutes ‘hate speech’ to the public glare.

Recall what that term currently means to Gardaí: ‘any non-crime incident which is perceived by any person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice.’

Is this to be the standard in 2024 for investigating, not to say hassling, citizens who have no intention of stirring up hatred or inciting violence but who, rightly, have every intention of making their views known on issues of controversy?

Of course, keyboard citizens are much easier targets than the real criminals night-prowling on O’Connell St.

This Bill is about silencing certain voices and will be used in that manner. Even if every prosecution is thrown out, people will have to endure the criminal process, including arrest and search, as a price to be paid for freedom of expression. The process becomes the punishment.

Looking at the UK we see the kind of thought-policing that we should not let into our country.

Ms Jennifer Swayne, who describes herself as a feminist activist and is disabled, was arrested in January 2021 following a search of her home  by Gwent Police who removed an “academic book”, “hundreds of stickers” and “loads of notes”. She had been reported for putting up stickers which were said to be directed at the transgender community.

In 2021 the Crown Office in the UK brought hate crime charges against a gender-critical feminist Marion Millar for sending allegedly homophobic and transphobic tweets. Then there are Caroline Farrow, Kathleen Stock, Jo Phoenix, JK Rowling –  all women suffering legal or professional backlashes for expressing support for biology as it really is, not as some oppressive fantasists would have it.

‘Poor Brits’, you might say. But only last week, parents in Dublin appeared reticent to express their view on a gender-linked classroom politicisation incident, when children in the school were instructed to refer to one of their teachers as ‘they’.

What kind of Ireland do we want? One where law-abiding citizens are cowed?

One where intersectional groups seek to use the law to create more divisions within our society? One where real haters can actually thrive because of an unpopular and oppressive law which may never work properly?

The Garda Commissioner knows and has said that the ‘far right’ cannot grow unless it is given oxygen. Haters exist and, sadly, this Bill, as drafted, will provide that oxygen.

The ‘Hate Speech’ Bill has garnered worldwide attention due to the threat it carries to freedom of expression. It has taken this attention to waken our legacy media up, even if they’re only slightly awake so far.

What could be effective now is a steady groundswell of citizen attention to the issue of free speech and the dangers of this Bill. Please keep talking to and emailing your public representatives and local media to help them see sense. Please let them know that YOU do not want your freedom of expression to be criminalised.

See for a fuller analysis of the many weaknesses in the Bill.


The criminal trial of Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen

“The criminal trial of Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola is underway before the Helsinki Court of Appeal….Both stand accused of “hate speech” for publicly expressing their faith-based beliefs.

Päivi Räsänen

“The parliamentarian of over twenty-five years, medical doctor, and grandmother, Päivi Räsänen, said upon arrival at the court: ‘Everyone should be able to share their beliefs without fearing censorship by state-authorities. I know that the prosecution is trying to make an example of me to scare others into silence. Yet, you do not have to align with my views to agree that everyone should be able to speak freely. With God’s help I will remain steadfast and continue defending everyone’s human right to free speech.'” [emphasis added]

“Regarding the booklet discussing Christian anthropology and homosexuality, which Räsänen wrote almost 20 years ago, the prosecution said: ‘The point isn’t whether it is true or not but that it is insulting.‘ The prosecutor also stated, that ‘the authors of the Bible are not indicted’ today, but that Räsänen’s use of the word ‘sin’ is ‘degrading’ and violates ‘sexual rights’.” [emphasis added]

Last year, Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola were cleared unanimously of ‘hate speech’ by a District Court, but the State is pursuing them nevertheless.


5 Reasons “Hate Speech” Laws are a Poisoned Cure

Churchill famously quipped that democracy is the worst form of government with the exception of all other forms of government. Similarly, I would argue that free speech is the worst form of speech regulation with the exception of all other forms of speech regulation. 

“Hate speech” laws – legal controls over expressions perceived to be subjectively hateful – are not merely an ineffective solution for dealing with human hatred, they are a poisoned cure that will make Irish society sicker. Here are 5 reasons why.

1) Failure to Dissolve Actual Hatred

There is no evidence that “hate speech” laws will serve to decrease the actual hatred felt by individual human beings toward other people. Alternatively, Deeyah Khan, a Muslim woman of Afghan and Pakistani heritage, has shown a way of successfully dissolving hatred through fostering human connection. As has Darryl Davis, a black man of Christian faith who befriended Ku Klux Klan members and is responsible for hundreds of them renouncing their racist ways. Importantly, neither Khan nor Davis could have done what they did if the US didn’t have the sort of free speech protections that allowed the racists they befriended to openly express their views in the first place. 

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” So wrote Martin Luther King Jr in his essay, A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Unfortunately, recent years have left me feeling that the censors looking to silence “hate” do not care about love or have any interest in forgiveness. They care about control. This has left me agreeing strongly with René Girard when he described the reign of “victimism, which uses the ideology of concern for victims to gain political or economic or spiritual power.” Michael Shellenberger suggests that “Elites Manufacture Fake “Hate” Crisis As Pretext For Mass Spying, Blacklists, And Censorship. And Martin Gurri, in his insightful and prescient book, The Revolt of the Public, suggests that: 

“Their hope is to silence the public, not persuade it. Hillary Clinton ran for president on a promise to keep the deplorables in their place. Angela Merkel clings to office to suppress the secret Nazi inside every German voter. Europe’s hate-speech laws ban conversations that are offensive to the elites.” (pg. 336) 

“Hate speech” laws are moves by power holders to silence whom they seem to see as irredeemable rabble; these laws have nothing to do with decreasing experiential hatred, and have everything to do with tyrannical control of acceptable discourse by the regime. 

2) Predator Politics

Take whatever powers you want to hold over other people, and imagine those same powers in the hands of whoever concerns you the most. This is the essence of Predator Politics. 

Predator Politics is the opposite to Utopian Politics because it assumes the existence of psychopaths, narcissists, sadists, and other sorts of people who would be generally problematic should they gain power. 

Positions and tools of power are corruptible. This is obvious. In a piece for Areo Magazine about Ireland’s horrifying new “hate speech” laws, I offered Article 48 of the 1919 Weimar Constitution as a prime example of such corruptibility; this was the “trapdoor” through which Germany fell into Nazi control. Much deeper still, is that Predator Politics also recognizes that positions and tools of power can be corrupting of typically good people, and that every human being has the capacity for evil. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” and all that. 

Exemplary of human malevolence is the psychic epidemic which has us denigrating or deifying entire groups: ‘All white people are racist and transwomen are women you far-right domestic extremist.’ The insanely puritanical and self-flagellating worship of identitarian hierarchies we are relentlessly assaulted with goes by many names including ‘Wokeness’, ‘political correctness gone mad’, ‘Rainbow Reich’, and the aforementioned ‘victimism’. Paul Kingsnorth has collected a few more descriptions from various writers: “Sermon on the Mount minus forgiveness, love and God”, “irrational cult”, and “authoritarian Utopianism that masquerades as liberal humanism”.  This ideology has resulted in “hate speech” laws which history has shown to be deeply counterproductive. In his great book, Free Speech, Jacob Mchangama described the fully counterproductive failure of censorship in preventing Nazis gaining power: 

“the fact that the Weimar Republic unsuccessfully tried to stem the tide of totalitarianism with illiberal laws of increasingly harsh censorship should at the very least give pause to those who demand that democracies today must also sacrifice free speech to counter organized hatred. So should Hitler’s use of Weimar Germany’s illiberal precedents to destroy the democracy they were supposed to protect.” (pg. 286-287) 

“Hate speech” laws are a prime example of Utopian Politics: a form of politics which assumes that serious villains amongst us (or within us) will never gain control of dangerous structures. Predator Politics is realistic and pragmatic whereas Utopian Politics is idealistic and idiotic. ‘Ou’ ‘topos’, after all, literally means ‘no’ ‘place’

3) Infantilization of Protected Groups

As a child, I was taught that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. At the time, however, names hurt very much indeed: I was fat, had a disproportionately large head, and was awful at soccer, all of which provided seemingly endless material to the ruthless abusers in my housing estate. But this did not mean the adults who insisted on the difference between physical and verbal abuse were wrong: I was simply a child. 

And when it comes to such a child’s understanding of the world, I have absolutely no reason to suspect that individuals in “protected” groups are weak and pathetic and in need Devouring Mother style shielding from “hate speech” that may cause “deep discomfort”. Being black or gay or Muslim does NOT make someone a fragile infant in need of mollycoddling by Therapeutic Technocratic Totalitarians.  As human beings, individuals within “protected” groups are endowed with the same dignity and capacity for resilience as anyone else. 

Here, hard as it is, I must lead by example and find it in my heart to love and forgive these victimist censors. King, in continuing the passage quoted above, clearly described why I must do this:  

“Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says ‘Love your enemies,’ he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” (pg. 17) 

“Love your enemies”. It is hard to imagine a more necessary yet radically challenging command.  

4) No Consent Without Dissent

Directly, “hate speech” laws present a danger to political freedom because the legal and social precedent of punitively controlling human expression could be exploited by cold-blooded tyrants looking to shut down political dissent—just as the Soviet Union desired with their own championing of “hate speech” laws. Indirectly though, important discourse about spicy topics could be suppressed from the bottom up as people self-censor. Thanks to our vast importing of impossibly stupid identity politics from across the Atlantic ocean, we already experience this.

What are we to make of the bizarre stigma encountered when questioning reckless immigration policy even though Ireland has an “unprecedented” housing crisis which is forcing 70-75% of its young adults to consider leaving the country? And housing shortages aside, there is another aspect of immigration that has been made forbidden to discuss by proponents of identity politics based victimism: the very real difficulty of integrating large amounts of people with extremely different views on how society should function. France for instance, recently looted and ablaze, has seen the highest rates of Islamist violence in the EU including teachers decapitated and journalists shot dead because of images that Islamists didn’t like. What then of the cultish gender ideology that hormonally destroys and surgically mutilates vulnerable and often mentally ill children while putting dangerous males into women’s prisons? Given that topics like these require vigorous open discussion, does Ireland really need top down suppression of expression through “hate speech” laws which Toby Young has called “a terrifying form of secular authoritarianism”, and Helen Joyce has described as “literally Orwellian”? 

If we cannot have the open inquiry and free exchange of ideas necessary for functional dissent, we cannot offer informed consent to policies or to the all-too-human politicians who make them. German dissident writer, Eugyppius, cheekily described the monocultural state of much of the West with dreadfully accurate cynicism: 

“Democracy is when you want what the late-stage liberal system wants to give you, and the system gives it to you. If you don’t want what the system wants to give you, your preferences are undemocratic and the system gives it to you anyway. You’re free to protest the things the system hates, but if you protest the system or any of its agenda, that’s undemocratic and you’ll be water cannoned to protect democracy. You’re free to believe in the principles espoused by late-stage liberal democratic politicians, but if you dispute them, you’re a danger to the free world and should be arrested.” 

There is no consent without dissent. A state is totalitarian, by definition, if there are certain questions we are not allowed to ask and certain views we are not allowed to express. 

5) Freedom from Tyrants

Freedom of speech is foundational to human freedom more generally. Don’t believe me? Ask the Shia Muslims executed by government headcutters in Saudi Arabia. Ask the women’s rights protesters viciously persecuted by tyrants in Iran. Ask the Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China for having wrongthink on their phones while their brethren seem to have been forced into labour camps and butchered through murderous organ harvesting by the Communist Party. Ask Salman Rushdie

The fact that free speech is central to resisting political oppression is to be found nowhere more clearly than in the opinions of those who have lived under it. In a brilliant 2022 essay for Foreign Affairs, Jacob Mchangama drew on direct quotations to illustrate the importance of free speech to major pro-democracy leaders of the 20th century: India’s Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Czechoslovakia’s Vaclav Havel, and Poland’s Lech Walesa. Free speech is also, of course, absolutely fundamental for people living under the boots of tyrannical regimes currently: 

“The importance of free speech in the digital space is clear to embattled pro- democracy activists in places such as Belarus, Egypt, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Russia, and Venezuela, where they depend on the ability to communicate and organize— and to the regimes of these countries, which view such activities as an existential threat.”

Should the fact that brutally oppressive regimes require censorship and suppression of heterodox viewpoints not incentivize us toward doing the exact opposite? If only. Mchangama describes how the informational policing in our own “liberal democracies” are making things worse for pro-democracy activists elsewhere: 

“And when liberal democracies pass censorship laws or when Big Tech platforms prohibit certain kinds of speech or bar certain users, they make it easier for authoritarian regimes to justify their repression of dissent. In this way, democracies and the companies that thrive in them sometimes unwittingly help entrench regimes that fuel propaganda and disinformation in those very same democracies.” 

Hatred exists but “hate speech” laws are a poisoned cure that will only serve to stifle important discourse, divide us ever further into conflicting identity groups, and better equip predatory people in positions of power to consolidate their control over the Irish public. Freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to say things some people might find hateful, is the least bad option from a menu of entirely bad options. The challenge of maintaining a free society is gritty and confronting. Get over it. Hate, after all, cannot drive out hate. 

Ciarán O’Regan is an Irish physical culturalist and curious generalist. His Substack is Quarrelsome Life, his Twitter is @quarrelsomelife, and he co-hosts the Learning to Die Podcast with Dr Ian Dunican.


FSI & Gript Announce Major Event

SAT 16 SEP, 12:30 – 17:00


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.

Speakers include:

  • 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.


Concert Hall, RDS, Dublin 4



Intolerant Ireland: The Cancelling of the THINK LOCAL Festival

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.

This article is a repost from


Hate Speech Legislation and the Good Friday Agreement

The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred or Hate Offences) Bill 2022, which is currently before the Irish Senate, is expected to become the law of the land in September. It is a poor piece of legislation, which infringes civil and human rights, while masquerading as a progressive measure to protect vulnerable groups. As a person who was heavily involved in drafting the human rights and equality sections of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, I am appalled that it strikes directly at the ethos of the GFA.

Ray Bassett and President Clinton in the White House

At the outset, I must admit I was very reluctant to get involved in opposing the Bill because nobody wants to be considered as condoning hatred. The Bill elicited very little interest as it passed through the Dáil, I imagine on the same grounds.  However, on reading the substance of the legislation, I felt it was my civic duty to speak out.

The thrust of the provisions of the GFA was to ensure “freedom from discrimination for all citizens” and parity of esteem for all. The Agreement affirmed “the right of free political thought” and, inter alia, the right to equal opportunity in all social and economic activity, regardless of class, creed, disability, gender or ethnicity. In drawing up the provisions, I worked very closely with Inez McCormack of the trade Union, UNISON, a tireless campaigner for equality.

In other words, the Good Friday approach is to ensure people on the island of Ireland should be equal before the law and be permitted to pursue their political objectives in a peaceful and free manner.

The proposed legislation is in many ways the antithesis of the GFA approach, criminalizing those who differ with the State narrative.  The legislation enters into the territory of limiting public comment, in some cases on wholly legitimate topics. An example is Section 8 which criminalizes “denial or gross trivialization of genocide”. Transgression can be punished by up to one year in prison.  Hence a person of Turkish descent in Ireland who will not accept that what happened to Armenians in 1915 as genocide could be jailed. The State should not be in the business of telling people what to think. This is a clear violation of the GFA commitment to the right to free political thought. 

Section 10 of the Bill makes it a serious offence to prepare or possess material which is deemed to be hateful.  The legislation will allow the Gardaí to enter a personal home, after a search warrant is issued, at any time of day or night and confiscate all material, including electronic, (computers, phones, tablets, etc.,) of all the people in that premises at the time of the search. The material may be in draft form, and it is up to the accused to prove it will not be circulated, a complete reversal of the concept of being innocent until proved guilty.

The Bill creates a number of “protected characteristics” which are afforded a special status under the law, clearly violating the concept of parity of esteem for all.  It also carries a very confusing definition of gender which repeatedly uses the term gender to explain gender,

“gender” means the gender of a person or the gender which a person expresses as the person’s preferred gender or with which the person identifies and includes transgender and a gender other than those of male and female”.

I am a holder of a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin and am unable to decipher what this definition actually means.

The criminal law demands precision since the consequences of transgression can be severe, namely imprisonment. Hence the absence of definitions of what actually constitutes “hatred” or indeed the crime of being “reckless” is nowhere to be found in the legislation.

The Minister for Justice in defence states that Judges will know what hatred is, a rather weak response. In addition, it will not be the Judges which will enforce the law but rather the Gardaí. It may be that the Judges will be reluctant to convict but the trauma of being arrested is a severe punishment in itself, without the subsequent conviction. If the Gardaí fail to act on a complaint they will be vilified in sections of the media.

The Bill does provide a number of defenses which reek of class consciousness. These included if material is a genuine contribution to literary, artistic, political, scientific, religious or academic discourse. No such protection for the hoi polloi.

The bill would seem not only to violate the Good Friday Agreement but Article 40 of the Irish Constitution which includes the two following elements;

All citizens shall, as human beings, be treated equal before the law

and guarantees;

The Right of a citizen to express freely their convictions and opinions, subject to public order and morality.

The legislation was put out for public consultation and the submissions were overwhelmingly opposed to it.  Opinion polling shows that the legislation enjoys little public support.  

Ireland is much less racist and hugely more tolerant than it was when I was growing up.  I have to question the need for these new provisions when society is increasingly intolerant socially of prejudiced behaviour.

There is already legislation in force prohibiting acts which could be constituted as incitement to hatred and successful convictions have been obtained under the old Act.  The question therefore must be asked as to why is the Government proceeding with the Bill which is at odds with the GFA?

There are two motivating factors, namely strong NGO groups who genuinely, and in my view, wrongly, are pushing the concept that Ireland is becoming more intolerant and needs the criminal law to whip it back to tolerance.

The second and probably more important motivation is to please Brussels. The EU Commission has made no secret of the fact that it would like to amend Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to include “hate crimes” and give Brussels more power to intervene in member States. The chances of the EU achieving this are close to zero since it requires unanimity among member States. It has called on individual countries to pass national legislation on the matter.

Our Government and its members are always conscious of the need to be regarded as the “best student in the classroom”, with the EU and are pushing this legislation which is inappropriate for Ireland. It will look good on job applications in Brussels to have supported this type of legislation. Even at this late stage it would be better to drop the flawed current Bill and start afresh, to look where, and if, the current legislation needs updating.

Ray Bassett is ex-Irish Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and Bahamas, and author of Ireland and the EU Post Brexit and The Phoenix Park Way: Walking the Walls of the Phoenix Park.

This article is a repost from


‘Whoa there, Minister!’

The controversial ‘Hate Speech’ legislation completed its Second Stage debate in the Seanad this week. Speaking to us, the Minister for Justice indicated that she would not rush the Bill through the Seanad.

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee addressing the Seanad on Wednesday

So concerned citizens and voters have time and opportunity to make their views known in the coming fortnight. Please do so – especially to Government TD’s and Senators, and directly to the Department of Justice.

I think Minister McEntee needs to hear from you because she has got the idea that people are victims of a ‘campaign of disinformation’ by ‘certain commentators, and on social media’ … ‘especially with regard to the public consultation’.

Since she’s brought up that 2020 public consultation, I am presenting here some points of information from the Department of Justice after that consultation. I have highlighted some of the phrases in bold just to show how far the Government has departed from this consultation and its results.

The published outcomes say:

‘for this report we have chosen working definitions that reflect the real-life experiences that communities have told us they experience as hate speech and hate crime. Of course any legislative definition will need to be more precisely construed.

Thresholds for criminal hate speech in particular need to be high, to avoid any disproportionate or unnecessary impingement on these fundamental rights which every person is entitled to enjoy.’

The criminal law, particularly as it applies to hate speech, should always be the measure of last resort. There is no doubt that criminal legislation alone will not solve the problem of hate speech, and is not suitable for dealing with many of the milder forms.’

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties proposed:

‘Hate speech, though abhorrent, should only be outlawed in the most extreme cases such as incitement to violence.’

‘Other forms of hate speech, which might cause deep offence for example but do not reach a criminal threshold, should be combated by other means.’

only extreme forms of hate speech that might lead to acts of hostility, discrimination or violence should be criminalised.’

A number of senators informed the Minister that they had received voluminous correspondence opposing the Bill on similar grounds.

Yet, somehow, the Minister still thinks that the criminalisation of undefined ‘hatred’ is what the public wants.

Closing the debate on Wednesday, the Minister sought to reassure us that we should not fear a restriction of free expression, the lack of a definition of ‘hatred’, or worry that there is anything surreptitious about her including a radical new definition of ‘gender’ in the legislation. But words matter. Especially in criminal law. This Bill allows anyone to be subject to prosecution for undefined hate speech at a time when ordinary people are regularly accused of hatred for the political views they hold and vigorously espouse.

The Minister’s mask slipped only twice.

The first time was when she reassured us that the understanding of ‘hatred’ was the one ‘commonly understood by the judge, by the jury, by the Director of Public Prosecutions.’ Whereas last week the Minister had referred to the one ‘used by the courts, the Garda and the DPP’. So where has the Garda definition gone – you know that vague one which says ‘perceived by any person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice’? Poof! It just disappeared – or has it?

The second slip was in the Minister’s closing remark: ‘For people who perhaps are not strong and are not able to deal with some of the targeted abuse and online hatred, we need to make sure there are protections in place to support them, and that is exactly what I am trying to do here.’

It’s meant to sound kind. But it means that the fundamental right of freedom of expression is to be suppressed in response to undefined online robust abuse – as if there were an equivalence, and as if that were the purpose of the criminal law.

When good intentions are filtered through the sieves of vested interests (‘stakeholders’) the common good can suffer. The Hate Speech elements in this Bill are proof positive of this.


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.