Government wants to pass amended hate speech Bill before next general election

Government Wants To Pass Amended Hate Speech Bill Before Next General Election
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to propose amendments to the Bill. Photo: PA
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Taoiseach Simon Harris has said he intends to pass an amended version of the hate speech legislation before the next general election.

Politicians have been wrangling over the wording of the Bill, which aims to overhaul 1989 incitement to hatred legislation and introduce laws that would see “hate” become an aggravating factor in certain offences.


Concerns have been raised around a lack of clarity on what “hate” means, and what impact the legislation could have on freedom of speech.



Amid concerns raised about the draft laws, which aim to modernise the State’s legislation around hate-related crimes to better suit online activity, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to propose amendments to the Bill.

Although the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 has passed through the Dáil, if amendments are proposed and passed by the Seanad, the Bill would need to return to the Dáil for approval.

Fine Gael leader Mr Harris said it is his intention to pass the amended legislation before the next general election, which needs to be held by March 22nd, 2025, at the latest.

“I have made a decision that we are going to pass a law in this space, I’m very clear on that,” he said.


Sinn Féin and some Government politicians, including Fine Gael TDs Charlie Flanagan and Michael Ring, have called for the hate speech draft laws to be scrapped entirely.

Mr Harris said the measure was in the Programme for Government and that he finds it “a little unusual” that almost all 160 TDs voted in favour of the hate speech draft law, and now some are “running around as if they’ve never heard of the Bill”.

He said they need to ensure “the Bill is right” and that some TDs and people have “asked legitimate questions about how the law can be improved”.



“I do think there have been legitimate issues, or at least legitimate questions raised, in relation to freedom of speech, in relation to definitions, clarifications and the likes,” Mr Harris said on RTÉ’s Today With Claire Byrne programme.

“Hate crime is not a pretend crime, it is a very real thing.


“If I want to be tough on law and order and support the gardaí, that means supporting the gardai in pursuing all crimes, including hate crimes, and when the gardaí believe they need new laws in this area, it would be a very irresponsible Taoiseach that wouldn’t take that seriously.

“So we will pass the Bill. The Bill will be amended and the Bill will seek to address significant concerns that have been made.”

He said the Government would discuss how the legislation would be amended and said he wanted to ensure there are not “unintended consequences” around freedom of speech.

Mr Harris said politicians needed to be “a bit more humble” when issues are raised, and said “I think we got that message from people on a number of occasions”.

When asked if the two defeated referenda on changing wording in the Constitution on family and care was such an example, he said it was.

“When enough people are saying ‘there’s a problem here’, [it’s] not putting your fingers in your ears and saying ‘la la la’ but actually trying to engage with people on the issue. That’s what we’ll try to do,” Mr Harris said.

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