Impending hate speech legislation is about “restricting freedom” for the “common good”, the chairwoman of the Irish Green Party said this week.
Appearing before the Irish Senate (Seanad) this week, Green Party chairwoman Pauline O’Reilly admitted that the intention of proposed legislation to further curtail speech in Emerald Isle is intended to “restrict freedom”, but in an Orwellian turn attempted to convince the public that this would somehow be in their interests.
“When one thinks about it, all law and all legislation is about the restriction of freedom. This is exactly what we are doing here. We are restricting freedom but we are doing it for the common good,” Senator O’Reilly said.
“Throughout our Constitution one can see that while one has rights they are restricted for the common good. Everything needs to be balanced.
“If a person’s views on other people’s identities make their lives unsafe and insecure, and cause them such deep discomfort that they cannot live in peace, our job as legislators is to restrict those freedoms for the common good.
“Social media has fuelled hatred but it has also put on display for all of us the dirty, filthy, underbelly of hatred in Irish society. That hatred has always existed.”
"We are restricting freedom for the common good": Irish Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly says that her government's hate speech bill is about "restricting freedom," and censoring views on gender identity if those views create "discomfort."#gript pic.twitter.com/H7QIT0QHmf
— gript (@griptmedia) June 15, 2023
The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, which is still being debated by Irish lawmakers, has become highly controversial, with Twitter chief Elon Musk recently branding the bill as a “massive attack against freedom of speech”.
The legislation would criminalise large swaths of speech, including “incitement to violence or hatred against” against people with “protected characteristics”, as well as “condoning, denying or grossly trivialising genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.”
The hate speech law would also controversially allow the government to jail citizens for merely possessing supposedly offensive material. Under the current form of the bill, anyone found in possession of so-called hateful material would be subject to up to one year in prison.
Speaking against the bill, Senator Rónán Mullen warned that the legislation would curtail free speech and be used as a weapon to target political dissent.
“We are in a society dominated by cancel culture where people are frequently accused of being haters for expressing points of view that are not hate but simply robust expressions of opinion,” Mullen said.
“When the social media mob is on the rampage, the Garda and the prosecution service will have little choice but to pursue the Graham Linehans and JK Rowlings of Irish society for robustly expressing their points of view.”
The independent Senator went on to say: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. Without it, there is no free exchange of ideas at all levels within society. In short, there is no democracy. That is why we use the term ‘fundamental’.”