The Government is set to join the EU Commission’s court case against Hungary’s contentious laws banning the portrayal of gay people in content aimed at under-18s.
Senior figures in Government including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin have strongly criticised the law which was introduced in 2021, and have portrayed it as a “Russian style” anti-LGBT propaganda law.
A memo will go to the Government by the end of the month seeking approval for Ireland to join an infringement case being taken by the commission to the European Court of Justice.
The memo will be taken by Mr Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If approved, this would be the first time Ireland has joined the commission in such a legal action. It is rare for member states to join actions against member states.
It is expected that Ireland will be the first of a number of EU states to join the action with Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands expected to seek their inclusion in the action in the coming weeks.
Last month, Ireland supported a declaration by the Benelux countries that expressed grave concern about the Hungarian parliament’s adoption of new laws that discriminate against the LGBTQI+ community in Hungary.
The Benelux-led declaration criticised Hungary’s unacceptable use of child protection as a pretext for introducing measures that violate freedom of expression as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and unjustifiably target the LGBTQI+ community in Hungary.
At the EU Council meeting in June 2021, Mr Martin – who was then taoiseach – raised the matter with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán and warned him the law would harm young people and suppress their human rights.
“I said very clearly to Viktor Orbán that your law will harm young people, will suppress the rights of young people,” Mr Martin told journalists.
There were heated exchanges during the course of the meeting between Mr Orbán and other EU leaders. Mr Martin said at the time the EU leaders made it clear to the Hungarian prime minister that he had “crossed a line” and there could be implications for Hungary’s receipt of EU funds.
However, Hungary has remained defiant in the face of criticism from other EU countries. A total of 18 governments have publicly signed the declaration against the law. Most of the states that have not signed are in the eastern part of the EU.
The Hungarian government said last week that it would defend its law in the courts.
On Facebook, its minister for justice Judit Varga argued that education was an issue that was not within the competency of the EU but was for individual member states to decide.
The Government intervention came as Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman disclosed the level of personal homophobic abuse he has received online. Mr O’Gorman told RTÉ's The Week in Politics that posts alleging he is a paedophile and child groomer have to be removed from his social media accounts every day.
“I’m aware that right now online and in various public fora, a lot of people who are gay or advocating on LGBT+ issues are facing vicious abuse,” he said.