As of yet uncodified, it appears almost certain that a hate speech bill of some sort will limp its way to the Cabinet table circa Easter time this year. While the Department of Justice has forewarned that it will not be as suffocating as the equivalent statutes seen in the United Kingdom, going by documents released, one nevertheless should be sceptical of these claims of leniency.

In December, this publication reported on the results of the year-long consultation process by which the Department of Justice granted itself a figleaf of legitimacy in pressing for largely NGO-dictated hate speech legislation. In our inquiries with the consultation staff, it became transparently obvious the direction of the process, weighed down with the usual suspects in our NGO catalogue. Hate speech is an inevitability given the current climate, it’s just a question of how onerous.

As part of the process, the Department has released a full compendium of lobbying papers from a motley crew of politicians, private companies and ideological lobby groups detailing their ideal hate speech regime for the State. 

While submissions in their totality are available at the Department website, it’s worth examining the more curious of entries.

Councillor Hazel Chu

Current resident of Dublin’s Mansion House, during her mayoral tenureship Chu has generated some controversy recently due to an alleged racist attack that occurred at her official residence in January. Spun by media allies as a 30-person hate fueled rampage, in actual fact the incident involved a handful of individuals connected with an explicity anti-racist historical group questioning Chu for her support of recent BLM agitation in the city.

Regardless, in her lobbying to the Department, Chu voiced her support for beefing up the 1989 Incitement Act, to allow more convictions as well as the legislating for more anti-racist initiatives at a state level.

Incidentally, it is possible that Chu would fall foul of her own hate speech proposals if applied retrospectively, due to her use of racial slurs online, as would her party leader Eamon Ryan.

Jim O’Callaghan TD

With intrigue about a potential parliamentary putsch against his party leader, O’Callaghan is tipped to be the next Taoiseach, or rather the one to oversee the post-election carcass that will be Fianna Fáil in 3 years. 

In his submission to the consultation, what is noticeable, aside from the unquestioning support given by him and his party to the concept of and implementation of hate speech laws, is the implicit mention of certain election candidates and their rhetoric.

“Inflammatory racist speech has crept into Irish public discourse, with migrants and members of the travelling community bearing the brunt of ill-informed and racist commentary. Some electoral candidates have cynically chosen to speak against groups in our society to seek the populist vote and this is not acceptable”

If you want clarification that hate speech is a means to reign in debate by an already pre-established elite, the above statement should suffice.

Fingal Communities Against Racism

Staffed by an ex-Young Fine Gael flunkie and perhaps the country’s most well-networked anti-racist activist, Lucy Michael’s FCAR is an astroturfed outfit based in North County Dublin. Initially deployed against the electoral ambitions of Gemma O’Doherty during a 2019 byelection, their remit has since grown to combat all things populis. This will likely be a business model rolled out nationwide in years to come.

With very clear issues around foreign-born populations sucking up housing at a disproportionate rate, Fingal and its surrounding areas, with its specific socio-economic profile, is primed for populism in the long term, and the powers-that-be are cognisant of this.

Embroiled in our investigations last year, Michael and her cohorts live rather charmed lives for those desiring to speak on behalf of Fingal and its largely working class populace, with the woman herself living large with a Commissionership in the IHREC, and her own consultancy business on the side.

While front and centre in January’s Nkchecno protests, and with Michael herself decrying structural racism in the legal system, they nevertheless appear to be dedicated in wanting state assistance in dealing with the radical right, as per their submission to the Department. Calling for better surveillance for Gardaí and formalised structures to deal with hate speech, FCAR’s submission is by far the most extreme given during the entire consultation.

To be absolutely clear, FCAR’s aim is political repression, hoping to tip the scales in favour of the current regime against any nascent nativism, despite a clear case for the former. In an hour-long podcast with the progressive media group Tortoise Shack, Michael speaking on behalf of FCAR laid out their stratagems for political manipulation and maintaining crossparty unity on matters of immigration.

FCAR, similar to HopeNotHate in the UK or the SPLC in America, represents perhaps a more centrist version of antiracism, one that is more effective to the extent in which it collaborates with the preexisting political regime.

Uplift

To this day I do not know how Uplift obtained my college email allowing them to spam my inbox with messages about their various campaigns. What began seemingly as an initiative against water charges morphed with the Zeitgeist of the 2010s into a well-oiled machine of woke capital. Uplift is a dogsbody NGO for pushing left/liberal causes always one step removed from the corporate world.

Providing their own polling, Uplift in their submission was keen to stress the need for tech platforms to be treated as effective publishers and thus bear the brunt of the law for facilitating hate speech.

BeLongTo Youth Services

In receipt of €1.3 million largely of taxpayer money, BelongTo has cornered the market in the provision of LGBT+ services to the under 18s, very often in schools. Hoping to expand the remit of the legislation into gender identity, in their submission BeLongTo mentioned the possibility that simply sharing hate speech could be categorised as hate speech itself.

National Union of Journalists

Despite being the representative body for British and Irish journalists, the NUJ has garnered a rather notorious reputation for its anti-republican and left of centre politics throughout the years.

While giving their blessing to the general thrust of the consultation towards more stringent hate speech legislation, the NUJ to their credit in their submission highlighted the need not to impair the right to free speech for journalists. While highlighting aspects of their journalistic code of conduct against the spreading of hate, one wonders is it any business for a journalist union to lobby for the expansion of state power into speech regulation.

Amnesty International

A household name in the human rights world, Amnesty has played a prominent role in both Repeal and same sex marriage referenda, but less so in the fight against populism. Their submission hit the standard points around legislating against hate speech, but further noted the need to bring in regulatory frameworks around broadcasting. To a large extent it would appear that the work of Amnesty increasingly looks to be completed, and it is more and more looking like it is taking a back seat to more radical strands of the NGO complex.

Conradh na Gaeilge

Unusual among the names listed for the process is that of Conradh na Gaeilge, the State’s primary Irish language lobby group. Rather disappointing to read as a member, the league voiced its concern that language be included for a victim group, citing statements by Ivan Yates and Paul Williams in their submission.

With its founding in 1893, Douglas Hyde imagined a variety of things for the League, crawling on its belly sycophantically begging an Anglicised state to legislate against mild-mannered critics isn’t one of them.

Facebook Ireland

The corporate elephant in the room with regards to tech regulation, Facebook Ireland broadly welcomed the move towards legislating against hate speech, though stressed that it should not be criminally liable to prosecution for hosting hateful content. While stressing their commitment towards stamping out hate speech on their platform, even boasting of their partnerships with civil society groups, they were very keen to cover themselves from any legal blowback with regards culpability in platforming hate speech.

Last week Facebook’s content moderation process in Ireland drew negative attention over alleged poor workplace conditions at ‘Covalen Solutions’, a third-party company they outsource censorship to. With restrictive NDAs being issued to staff, as well as issues of staff receiving inadequate attention for resulting PTSD, the question around the working condition of content moderators may perhaps be a chink in the armour for any hate speech regime.

Incidentally the man in the hot seat when it comes to content moderation in Ireland is Dualta Ó Broin, himself a former official with the Department of Communications and the Environment; perhaps indicative of just how interwoven Facebook is with the State.

INAR Ireland

One of the more familiar Soros-backed NGOs in the field of hate speech and diversity, INAR unsurprisingly advocated a more combative approach to what they deem to be hate speech, in a rather by-the-book submission.

Staffed by self-described ‘libertarian socialist’ Shane O’Curry, himself currently sitting on a Department of Justice committee, came to prominence via high-profile partnerships with both the GAA and Newstalk.

With a cash flow of €140,000 per annum, most of which comes from state coffers, INAR seems to be angling for the role of state-sponsored hate speech monitor under the new legislative regime.

Independent News and Media 

Formerly a corporate province of telecommunications oligarch Denis O’Brien, Independent News and Media (INM), the parent corporation behind the Irish Independent and the Herald, passed into the ownership of Mediahaus, a Dutch media conglomerate.

Supportive of the legislative and its apparent need, INM also cautioned against any impedance on free expression to journalists that could come as a consequence.

Jewish Representative Council of Ireland

In the context of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement gaining traction in Ireland, the Council’s submission was perhaps of interest to the extent it sought to pursue critics of Zionism in a nation generally tilted in favour of the rights of Palestianians. In short it didn’t disappoint, and it is by far one of the longest submissions at a sturdy 56 pages.

Aiming to bring aspects of anti-Zionism under the purview of hate speech, the document outlined a proposal to implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism as a working standard for law officials. 

Alongside Holocaust denial, the working definition has generated controversy due to fears of equating anti-semitism with Zionism, and was a key feature of internal rancour within the British Labour Party over antisemitism. Whatever one’s stance on the state of Isaeli-Palestinian relations, by any measure criminalising anti-Zionism falls within the realm of overt political policing, likely to affect the Irish radical left as much as the racial right. Like the majority of submissions to the Department, such a move ought be unthinkable in a free society, and it really just represents a narrow interest group trying to put their political project above criticism. 

Union of Students of Ireland

There are a million and one things the Union of Students of Ireland should be doing amid a housing and covid crisis for its members. Pushing for hate speech legislation is not one of them.

Long term friends of this publication and recent sign ups to ‘Le Chéile”, a new antifascist initiative, the USI, per its modus operandi, has decided to stick its nose into issues of negligible concern to it or its members. Advocating for an intersectional approach to hate speech and even against use of the term ‘hate’, USI furthermore desires the rollout of sensitivity training for public officials, as well as hate speech guidelines for all third level universities. 

Despite it all, there were a handful of voices in the wilderness fighting against the rollout of hate speech legislation by the Department. From the Iona Institute, to the Edmund Burke Institute, to the Immigration Control Platform, they all did Trojan work trying to bring a degree of sanity to the discourse around hate speech legislation. Regardless, like so many things the State is moving in a lockstep progressive motion towards hate speech, and one should prepare for its implementation accordingly over the next 12 to 18 months.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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