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.


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.