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Free speech under threat in Ireland’s recent “hate offences” bill

On April 26, the lower house of the Irish Parliament passed what could be the most extreme hate speech law in Europe, with critics saying that it is in fact a 'thought crime' bill.


The text of the bill makes the possession of material considered ‘hateful’ against certain groups a crime punishable with jail, and the burden of proof is shifted to the accused, who is expected to prove they didn’t intend to use the material to “spread hate”.

The Dáil Eireann (lower house of the Irish Parliament) approved the “Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022” on April 26. If the Seanad Éireann (upper house) passes the bill in the same form as it is now, this would mean ‘thought crime’ has effectively been made a reality in Ireland.

The bill targets material against “protected categories,” i.e. race, colour, nationality, religion, national or ethnic origin, descent, gender, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, and disability.


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