New legislation to combat “hate speech” in Ireland has now been passed by the lower house of the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann. The law has been heavily criticized from several quarters as being contrary to freedom of expression in the country.
It was at the end of last year that Ireland introduced new legislation that will “criminalise any intentional or reckless communication or behaviour that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or persons because they are associated with a protected characteristic”.
Protected characteristics covered by the new legislation include race, color, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origin, sex, biological sex, sexual orientation and disability.
The law has now been passed by Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. This is a step towards making the new hate speech law a reality in the country. The vote, which took place on April 26 and received 110 votes to 14, has prompted a storm of criticism in the country, with concerns that it will significantly limit freedom of expression.
Senator Rónán Mullen, leader of the opposition Human Dignity Alliance party in the Irish Senate, says the new law risks creating a climate where people will be “curtailed in their speech and democratic actions”.
“Freedom of speech is ultimately what guarantees freedom of thought, and is an essential reality in the seeking of truth”, he writes. “The hate speech elements of the Hate Bill do not take full cognisance of the importance of free expression”.
Paul Murphy, member of the People Before Profit-Solidarity party, was one of the members who voted against the proposal. Murphy describes the legislation as highly “problematic” because it criminalizes people who simply have material on their computer, for example, that is classified as “hateful” – without the material even being passed on to others who may find it offensive.
– That’s a problem, in my opinion, that gets to the fundamental problem of this bill, that is the creation of a thought crime, he said before the vote.
Elon Musk has also publicly criticized the bill, describing it as “a massive attack on free speech”.
The bill will now go to the Senate.