Hate speech and hate crime

 

Sir, – There is welcome and widespread public interest and discussion at present in relation to the need to tackle hate speech and hate crime. Indeed your editorial of October 18th (“The Irish Times view on hate crime: the case for new law”) touches on some of the challenges involved in updating our laws to deal effectively with these problems.

While it is certain that one of the most ancient, fundamental and recognisable characteristics of Irish culture is our welcome and our friendliness, there can be no doubt that a small minority in this country is determined to attack and abuse people for no other reason than their own prejudice and intolerance.

This is not something that this Government, nor the people of Ireland can or will continue to tolerate.

The Department of Justice and Equality is working to develop and improve our legislation on both hate speech and hate crime as an urgent priority.

A public consultation on incitement to hatred will open very shortly, and will gather the views of communities, experts and all interested persons on how our incitement legislation should be changed to make it fit for purpose.

Separately to this work on incitement, my department is finalising research on the effectiveness of the different legislative approaches to tackling hate crime in other countries, in order to learn from experience elsewhere and use this information to identify the approach that will be most suitable for Ireland. When this research has concluded I will bring forward proposals for new hate-crime legislation. These will be published and the views of experts, communities and the public will be taken into account to ensure that the legislation we develop will deliver a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone.

I welcome the comments of former High Court judge Bryan MacMahon (“Retired judge calls for hate-crime legislation”, News, October 16th) and others who have contributed constructively to this discussion and I would like to assure all concerned that the development of this legislation is a high priority for me as Minister for Justice. – Yours, etc,

CHARLIE FLANAGAN,

Minister for Justice

and Equality,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.