The Workers’ Party has called for amendments to proposed hate crime legislation to remove reference to ‘reckless’ speech, saying as it stands the proposed legislation risks subjective political abuse. 

Workers’ Party representative for Dublin Central, Claire O’Connor said: 

“As it stands, the proposed new legislation on hate speech lacks any definition of what type of speech is criminalised, and what evidence of an intention to incite hatred is required in order to prosecute.”

“The legislation would see any speech deemed to be ‘reckless’ prosecuted – regardless of whether it can be proven that promoting hatred of a particular group was the intention of the speaker. This is an extraordinarily broad definition, and imposes unacceptable limitations on free speech.” 

O’Connor continued: 

“The existing incitement to hatred legislation already provides for limitations on the right to freedom of speech in any instance where it can be proven that the intention of the speaker is to promote hatred against a protected group.”

“This is in line with civil rights norms internationally, which indicate that, if hate speech is to be criminalised, it is only to be done so in the most egregious of instances. It strikes an appropriate balance between limiting the worst forms of hate speech, and protecting the fundamental value of Freedom of Speech.” 

O’Connor concluded: 

“The proposed hate speech legislation is so vague and far-reaching that it is open to political abuse well beyond the stated intention of its proponents Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. On an issue such as the rights of Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation, for example, it would allow scope for an individual to be prosecuted for anti-semititic hate speech.” 

“This is an unacceptable and dangerous curtailment of our fundamental right to freedom of speech.”