Elon Musk and Donald Trump jnr criticise proposed Irish hate crime legislation

Bill, currently going through Seanad, will legislate against hate crimes for first time

Donald Trump jnr has described proposed new hate crime legislation in Ireland as “insane”.

The eldest child of the former US president responded on Sunday to a tweet about the legislation, called the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022.

The Bill, which is currently going through the Seanad, will update laws criminalising hate speech and legislate against hate crimes for the first time in Irish law.

The new legislation will criminalise any intentional or reckless communication or behaviour that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or persons because they are associated with a “protected characteristic”.


Such characteristics are set to include race, colour, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

A person who seeks to incite hatred against a person or group with one of these characteristics may be guilty of an offence which could carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.

A tweet posted by a user called Keith Wood said: “Ireland is about to pass one of the most radical hate speech bills yet. Merely possessing ‘hateful’ material on your devices is enough to face prison time.

“Not only that, but 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’. This clause is so radical that even the Trotskyist People Before Profit [PBP] opposed it as a flagrant violation of civil liberties. Dark times.”

In response, Mr Trump jnr, whose father is visiting Ireland and Scotland this week, said “it’s insane what’s happening in the ‘free world’”.

Elon Musk, owner and chief executive of Twitter, responded to a separate tweet about the legislation describing it as “very concerning”.

The new legislation will repeal the previous incitement to hatred laws and is intended to make prosecutions easier. However, the bar for a prosecution remains high – a defendant must have deliberately intended to incite hatred or violence against a person on account of their protected characteristic and there are defences for a reasonable and genuine contribution to literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic debates.

The legislation was developed following a public consultation process which drew about 4,000 responses. The Department of Justice then engaged with academics and experts before bringing the details of it to Cabinet last October.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, PBP TD Paul Murphy said a section of the Bill created the possibility of a person being criminalised “purely for having material that is hateful, without that material being communicated to the public”.

This resulted in “the creation of a thought crime,” he said, that contained “a dangerous reversal of the burden of proof, where the burden is now placed on the accused to overturn the presumption that the material was not intended for personal use.

“We must try to create good law and this section, creating a thought crime, is very problematic,” Mr Murphy said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times