Fintan O’Toole: Ireland's anti-Traveller hate speech is the respectable group prejudice

If how we treat Travellers is our model for ‘rooting out’ racism, the prospects look bleak

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Pat Kenny on Virgin TV on Friday: ‘We don’t see many black or brown judges, or in the Dáil – I’m the only one, I think, at the moment – don’t see many presenters on TV, for example, and that needs to change.’ Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Pat Kenny on Virgin TV on Friday: ‘We don’t see many black or brown judges, or in the Dáil – I’m the only one, I think, at the moment – don’t see many presenters on TV, for example, and that needs to change.’ Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

First a warning: the beginning of this column contains some highly offensive language. I quote it because otherwise the point could not be made.

In 2011, the State initiated a very rare prosecution for online hate speech under section 2 of the 1989 Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act. The accused, a 27-year-old Kerry man, had created a Facebook page entitled “Promote the use of knacker babies for shark bait”. He suggested on it: “Instead of using animals for shark bait, they could use knack babies. Also as food at feeding time in the zoo. And for testing new drugs for viruses.” A total of 644 people joined this Facebook group, and many of them added further abusive comments.

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