Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats “have got it wrong” in tabling a no-confidence motion in the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee as it runs contrary to the widespread view that politicians should stand together against extreme forces, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking at a media briefing at Cop28 in Dubai on Saturday, he said the country was shocked and traumatised by the recent Dublin riots. “I think most people in the country want politicians to work together ... to support the gardaí, to strengthen law and order, and also want those of us who are at the centre of politics, those mainstream parties, to stand together against extreme forces.”
“Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats are making a mistake by bringing this divisive motion to the Dáil next week, which can only fail,” Mr Varadkar added.
He confirmed Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, who is Dubai, will go back to Ireland for the vote next week before returning for the conclusion of the Cop28 climate talks in which he will be negotiating on behalf of Ireland and the EU.
“That’s not ideal but there are no pairs for confidence motions other than illness. So the result of that is Mr Ryan will have to go home and come back again. He will offset the emissions. We’ve a mechanism for doing that,” he said.
Responding to an Irish Times story detailing how the global far right looked to take advantage of Dublin’s recent riots, the Taoiseach said the response was a feature of a globalised age.
“It has always been the case that extremist groups were in contact with each other around the world. Technology, social media has made that much easier. So people who have very extreme views or who harbour tendencies towards violence, they now find it very easy to connect with each other online,” he said.
“They have their very extreme views, conspiracy theories affirmed by each other online and then amplified. That’s what’s dangerous. You can’t put technology back in the box. I’m in favour of the digital age, but we have to make sure that our society and our laws keep up with that reality.”
On criticism by entrepreneur and X owner Elon Musk of him and the Government’s new hate speech legislation, Mr Varadkar said Ireland already had laws when it comes to incitement to hatred and incitement to violence.
“There’s nothing new about that. The difficulty is that our laws are out of date and haven’t kept up to date with the electronic age and the social media age,” he said.
“What I can guarantee people is that freedom of expression is protected in our Constitution. It’s protected in the new law. But there’s a line that people shouldn’t cross.
“And if you’re deliberately disseminating information, these days almost entirely online – it used to be in books and publications – and that’s designed to mislead people and to stir up hatred, which can then lead to violence or lead to crimes being committed. We need the powers to deal with that. And the Gardaí in particular want us to have those powers.”
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