Opposing the Hate Speech Bill
About the Bill
The Hate Speech Bill, formally the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, has become one of the most controversial bills in Irish history.
We are concerned that ill-defined and unclear aspects of the Bill will in effect result in limitations being placed on people’s right to freedom of expression.
We would like to draw attention to the following sections in particular:
The provision outlined in Section 7(1)(a) of the Irish Hate Speech Bill sets a troubling precedent by establishing that an individual could be deemed guilty of an offense through the act of “communicating material to the public or a section of the public.” This overly broad language not only criminalises individuals accountable for their own statements but extends liability to the mere sharing of content on social media, regardless of whether it was initially published by another user in a different country or jurisdiction.
The ambiguity within Part 3 of this section, relying on terms like “genuine” or “reasonable,” introduces subjective criteria as a defence. This ambiguity poses significant risks, potentially subjecting individuals to fines or imprisonment for up to five years based on vague and subjective judgments. Such provisions not only threaten freedom of expression but also create an environment where individuals might self-censor to avoid legal repercussions, stifling open discourse and undermining the principles of free speech and democratic values.
Section 8 of the Irish Hate Speech Bill, while aiming to address communication related to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, presents significant flaws. Its broad scope concerning the communication of material fails to account for situations where individuals share historical articles or news items that don’t necessarily align with contemporary societal views in Ireland. This oversight risks subjecting individuals to prosecution merely for sharing content that doesn’t reflect current perspectives. Moreover, it overlooks the sharing of material from foreign cultures or countries, disregarding the differences in world views and potentially penalising individuals for content that may be acceptable or normal in other contexts. This lack of nuance and consideration for historical or cultural differences in Section 8 could lead to the stifling of diverse perspectives and the imposition of legal consequences on individuals for innocuous sharing of information that may not align with prevailing societal norms.
Under this section a person may be found guilty irrespective of whether communication of material or behaviour was successful in inciting another person to violence or hatred. This would penalise individuals as a result of gross speculation.
The possession of material which is not considered “reasonable” or a “genuine contribution” shall be an offence. As with Section 7, these are subjective criteria and are deeply concerning as the Bill does not establish what is considered a “reasonable” or “genuine contribution”. It is vital that lawful expression is not restricted by the Government.
There is a concerning limited and ill-defined “Protection Of Freedom Of Expression” afforded by the Bill in Section 11.
This section is no more than four lines, and does not establish clear protections for Freedom of Speech.
The inclusion of Section 13 in the Hate Speech Bill poses a concerning scenario whereby managers and executives within corporations could face charges for hate offences solely based on the actions of their employees, such as instances of hate speech or possession of hateful material. This provision not only holds individuals in higher positions accountable for the actions of their subordinates but also creates a precarious legal landscape. It places an undue burden on managerial personnel, potentially penalising them for the actions they may not have directly influenced or condoned. This extension of liability beyond the immediate perpetrating individual raises significant ethical and legal concerns. It undermines the fundamental principles of justice, fairness, and individual responsibility, painting an unfair picture of managerial accountability. Such a broad interpretation of liability risks discouraging individuals from assuming leadership roles and can stifle productive management practices within corporations.
We recommend that legislators reject the Bill in its current form.
1. Contact politicians
Every Irish person can call, email, or write letters to their representative in the Dáil (TD’s) and Seanad (Senators).
The Minister for Justice, who is responsible for the Hate Speech Bill, has conceded that she will not rush the Bill through the remaining Seanad stages. So concerned citizens and voters still have some time to make their views known. Please do so – especially to Government TD’s and Senators, and directly to the Department of Justice.
Their email addresses and phone numbers are available trough the above links. An increasing amount of politicians can also be reached out to via social media.
Irish TD’s and Senators frequently attend public meetings throughout Ireland. One of the best ways to voice your concerns to them, is to do so in person.
2. Send a letter to the President
After a bill passes through the Oireachtas the president must sign off on it. If the president believes a bill may be unconstitutional, they must send it to the Supreme Court for review.
It is quite possible that the Bill, or parts of it, are unconstitutional, given the provisions for freedom of expression in Bunreacht na hÉireann.
You may share your thought on the Hate Speech Bill with the president by sending a stamped letter to:
Áras an Uachtaráin
3. Sign the petition.
During public consultation a petition against these proposed laws gathered close to 5,000 signatures. We at Free Speech Ireland have started a new one, which you can find on this link below.
4. Stay in touch with us
To stay in touch with the wider campaign to reject the Hate Speech Bill, subscribe to our mailing list (we won’t spam you) and make sure to follow us on your socials: