Hate speech legislation not my sole focus, says McEntee

Hate Speech Legislation Not My Sole Focus, Says Mcentee
‘It is not my sole focus, it is not my sole priority,’ the Minister for Justice said of the bill, which is currently before the Seanad. Photo: PA Images
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Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said that her draft hate speech laws are not her sole focus and are not being prioritised above 11 other pieces of legislation she has in the pipeline.

The bill is the first specific legislation that would deal with hate crime in Ireland, and would update existing hate speech laws, which the Ms McEntee called “ineffective and limited”.


It would repeal 1989 laws in their entirety and replace them with legislation that would make it easier to secure convictions.

Helen McEntee
The bill, drafted by Helen McEntee, will be the first specific legislation that would deal with hate crime in Ireland Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA. 

There is also a provision to make hate an aggravating factor for existing offences when sentencing.


It would expand protected characteristics to “gender” and “descent”, referring to people who are transgender and of Jewish origin or mixed race respectively, and would make it an offence to “condone, deny or grossly trivialise” genocide and war crimes.

Ms McEntee has cited a 29 per cent crime increase in reported hate crimes in 2022, most of which were based on race, sexual orientation or nationality, as the basis for the bill.

But the laws have faced criticism from various quarters, including from Donald Trump Jnr and Elon Musk, over how they would affect free speech.

Asked about criticism from members of her own Fine Gael party over her focus on the draft laws, Ms McEntee said: “The hate crime bill is one of 12 that I’m working on at the moment.



“It is not my sole focus, it is not my sole priority,” she told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.


“When I return in September, I’ll be introducing the Policing Bill, which will be the biggest reform of An Garda Síochána since it was established.

“It would put on a statutory footing community partnerships, which acknowledge gardaí are not the sole ones responsible for community safety.

“The body-worn camera legislation will be enacted later this year, (and there will be) a new piece of legislation to enact an agency on domestic violence.”

She added: “It has not been put above anything else. Do I think that people who commit crimes against others simply because of who they are, is an issue that we shouldn’t address?


“I do think we should address it, but it’s not the only focus that I have.”


When asked whether her colleagues had voiced any criticism about her focus on the laws over emphasising Fine Gael’s policy on law and order, she said “no”.

“I’m always here to talk to colleagues, I’m always open to talking to colleagues.

“I engage with colleagues on any issue that they want, and that has always been the case, and that will continue to be the case.”

After being passed by the Dáil and the Seanad, the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 now moves on to committee stage.

In a Seanad debate before the summer recess, several senators raised concerns about the bill.

Senator Lisa Chambers
Senator Lisa Chambers said there is a level of subjectivity about the bill that makes people nervous. Photo: Conor McCabe/PA. 

Leader of the Seanad Lisa Chambers said concerns about the hate speech element of the bill “are real and genuine”, and raised concerns it could have a “chilling effect”.

The former Fianna Fáil TD, who said she would be seen on the liberal side of her own party, said that the lack of a legal definition of what “hate” is presents “a level of subjectivity that makes people nervous”.

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Ms McEntee had said that based on “strong” advice from the Attorney General, “hatred” is not being defined beyond its everyday meaning.

Ms Chambers added: “There are many ordinary, middle-ground people who are not quite sure what we are legislating for, if it is needed, if it is reasonable and if we are doing what we are required to do or going further than that.

“Most people here are absolutely united in wanting to see hate crime legislation. It is the hate speech element that is causing most difficulty because there is an element of vagueness around it. This is just a fact.”

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