At University College Dublin, a recent event was held in which several guest speakers were invited to speak at the college to discuss the topic of freedom of speech. Avowedly supporting the incoming hate speech legislation at this event were Doireann Ansbro from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, and Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward; while retired UCD professor Gerard Casey and Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín discussed the problematic nature of the government’s attempts to limit freedom of expression.

To preface his brief argument, Senator Ward sought to clarify that ‘to restrict freedom of speech doesn’t mean to be anti-free speech,’ subsequently reiterating a rehearsed ramble on the necessity of hate speech legislation.

Ansbro, similarly, spoke of the need to differentiate kinds of speech, using the example of a ‘hate speech pyramid’ in which the uppermost egregious tiers, such as incitement of violence, would be considered in breach of hate speech legislation, while more menial forms of offensive speech were to remain untouched.

It is notable that both Gerard Casey and Peadar Tóibín brought copies of the proposed legislation with them, so as to demonstrate the purposefully vague language of the document. Quoting from sections of the document, Tóibín criticised the lack of definition of terms, such as gender, while Casey questioned as to what exactly constitutes a protected characteristic.

While Ansbro reiterated her earlier sentiments, she counter-signalled Casey’s claims regarding the morality behind hate speech legislation. Casey opined that the individual ought not to be charged for the motive of a crime, i.e. hate, because they are, by law, required to be sentenced for the criminal act in of itself.

Reasoning that the purpose of a crime is not equivalent to the crime itself, Casey discredited the criminalisation of incitement of violence by reaffirming the idea of individual responsibility.

Peadar Tóibín, who continually spoke about the role of free speech in protecting ‘our democracy,’ criticised the government’s intent behind the legislation. Stating the sufficiency of contemporary legislation on matter such as incitement of hatred, Tóibín alleged that the government’s intention in introducing new legislation was to fabricate legal sanction on the imprisonment of individuals who otherwise, would be innocent of any criminal activities.

Casey, arguing against the notion of a protected characteristic, undermined the stated purpose of the incoming legislation through the observation that the Gardaí already provided minorities with special treatment.

Referencing the United Kingdom and its draconian measures to inhibit the freedom of expression of intellectual minorities, both Casey and Tóibín warned against Ireland following such an arbitrary, fickle, and unjust legislative path whose consequences can be observed from across the Irish Sea.

Towards the end of the discussion, Senator Ward, who spent much of his time disrespectfully scrolling twitter or playing mobile games on his phone, gave further comment on the legislation in the context of ongoing working-class protests against asylum seekers being forcefully placed in their communities.

Ward, a proud anti-racist, stated that hate speech legislation was necessary so as to prevent these protests, which he disdainfully characterised as ‘intimidatory demonstrations’ that have been egged on by spread of hateful ideas through social media.

Freedom of speech, though it ought to be regulated somehow in a digital era, should not be done in the cynical manner that the Irish government is trying to convince people to support a Bill which in effect, renders any online statement made, as a potential breach of hate speech legislation.

Posted by Jane O'Malley


  1. The concept of the motivation behind a problematic one indeed. In one sense, a distinction exists in Law in terms of the ‘deliberation’ behind the motivation, rather than the motivation itself. What I mean by that is for example, in cases of homicide, where there is evidence that the homicide was deliberately planned in advance, maybe through careful preparation, the sentencing in this case will be different to a homicide say, carried out in the heat of the moment, where someone lost the run of themselves – what’s known as a crime of passion, for example.

    But what is not taken into account in such cases is the reason itself for the homicide: it doesn’t matter whether the killer wanted the other person dead out of jealousy, or because they felt betrayed, or because they stood in the way of an inheritance, or because they simply hated their guts (one possible exception is where someone reacted after years of harassment or violence by attacking their persecutor – and even then, it’s likely that it would be treated as a crime of passion and they would still be convicted). “Hate crime legislation” seeks to make exactly this kind of distinction, a new departure for Irish Law.

    If we are to introduce the concept of ‘motive’ in Irish Criminal Law, it would only be logical to apply it in other areas as well, for example, in the case of homicide, above. Or in the case of burglary, perhaps where it can be shown the burglary was committed out of pure greed the culprit ought be subjected to a stiffer sentence than say, a heroin addict trying to feed his/her habit (more like a crime of passion). One positive outcome of all this might be that white collar financial crime whether corporate, banks etc (generally committed out of pure greed as opposed to any genuine need) might finally start receiving appropriate prison time.


  2. Ivaus@thetricolour 05/02/2023 at 10:26 am

    Control Freaks, sociopathic self appointed monsters of the human race.
    Continually trying to justify their self importance through the abuse of
    governance,power,laws and their ideas of man V GOD,mere men that
    seek the adulation of the masses but demanding privileges of elitism and
    “We Know Better” indoctrination of mankind since Caesar.
    They can be traced through schooling,desired teachers pet,prefect,or anything that shines with the gloss of power so that they do not compete with normal society…and what are they without the privilege of power?
    They are an abscess that is a poison to human nature.Mixing the poison of political interference with anything…ultimately the poison wins out.
    Now,after hijacking life,the body,our daily existence on this earth with all their obstacles to a fruitful meaning of man’s place in the world…it’s not enough for them,they want to control minds…if we let them. SCUMAN.


  3. Don’t believe a word of the nonsense from the left. Incitement to violence is already — and was always — illegal. It doesn’t need this Trojan horse legislation to outlaw it. The objective is to stop up peoples’ mouths because that’s the only argument the left have about anything.


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