On the 17th December 2020, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee launched the blueprints for what will become Ireland’s new laws on so-called ‘hate crime’.
Under the proposed laws, it will become a crime to speak or write in a way that risks ‘deliberately or recklessly inciting hatred’ against a protected group, as well as sharing material on social media that breaks the former would-be law. Meanwhile, websites will be protected from being prosecuted so long as they have ‘reasonable measures’ in place to prevent such ‘hate speech’ from being disseminated on their platform.
The proposition comes at the end of a year which has been utterly disastrous for mainstream Irish politics. After a year of near constant government scandals, from prominent Green Party ministers associating with a man accused of pedophile apologia, to entire swathes of government politicians breaking their own lockdown rules, there has been a significant swing towards Nationalist politics in Ireland.
Within a year, the Right has gone from being a mere nuisance at the fringes to centre stage, with rallies numbering in the thousands now a common site in the capital. This publication alone has more than doubled its readership since the start of the year, with multiple individual projects reaching over a million people.
It is the view of this author that these new laws are in response to this explosive populist growth. Suddenly, the politicians of our ever-weakening neoliberal ruling class find themselves facing a surge of Nationalism, far stronger than they could have ever imagined. While the Minister makes the claim that there will be a high bar for hate speech prosecution, and that ‘good faith’ and ‘academic’ speech will remain protected, looking to Britain as a case study, there seems to be little hope of that happening.
The impulse towards hate speech legislation is also likely due to the undisciplined nature of certain factions in the ‘culture war’. Those who try to build a coalition of the disaffected around wild alienating claims about 5G, Satanic pedophile cults and vaccines, whilst at the same time raising legitimate concerns about mass migration, are the real target of this bill.
A peaceful political movement survives on its ability to convey its message without fear of either legal or physical retaliation from the state or other actors, and modern Nationalism is no exception. If such an ability is stripped from such movements, extremist dissidents, often with malicious intent, will use state oppression as an excuse for their own violence. We’ve seen this scenario played out time and time again, from our very own North and the campaign for one man one vote; to as far away as Sub-Saharan Africa, where the struggle for franchise in the likes of Zimbabwe and South Africa quickly devolved into armed conflict due to the political oppression of the black majority.
With these proposed hate speech laws, our current, utterly dysfunctional government is in danger of leading us down this dangerous but well-trodden path towards rampant political violence. While the entirety of the Irish Right at the moment has an unwavering commitment to peace, if these movements are crushed under the boot of tyranny, far more extreme actors will come to prominence.