As part of our annual NXF Pride ‘Leaders Series’ in June, this author spoke with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who went on record to restate his government’s intention to fully enact the crucially important Hate Offences Bill currently moving its way through the Oireachtas.
In addition, Varadkar restated the intention of a full prohibition on the abusive and discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and progress on delivering an LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum in all schools. These commitments were subsequently reinforced at a Pride meeting in Government Buildings between the LGBTQ+ sector and senior members of the Cabinet.
We are determined to see the Hate Offences law enacted before the end of the year and also welcome the commitment that the ban on ‘conversion practices’ will come into force in early 2024.
Securing effective and victim-centred hate offences legislation has long been a priority for the LGBTQ+ community, and the need to finally legislate in this area was brought into even sharper focus earlier this year when official figures revealed a nearly 30 percent increase in hate-motivated crimes. We know such figures only represent the tip of the iceberg as this is a crime that is vastly under-reported.
Passage of the Hate Offences Bill is our leading legislative priority for 2023 as a vitally important component of a broader whole-of-society effort against the scourge of hate and extremism. This legislation is long overdue and will finally bring to an end Ireland’s ‘outlier’ status as one of the very few countries in the western world without any hate crime laws. It will also update existing but hopelessly inadequate hate speech provisions dating back to 1989 that take no account of the proliferation of hate in the online space in particular, where a lack of regulation and real accountability for platforms has allowed such hatred to flourish.
In addition to being a pressing issue for the LGBTQ+ and other affected communities, polling reveals huge public support for effective laws in this area and indeed hate crime ranks as one of the categories of crime that people wish to see prioritised.
Having overwhelmingly passed the Dáil earlier this year in a rare outbreak of cross-party unity, the legislation has more recently come under attack as part of a concerted attempt to stoke ‘culture war’ toxicity more common in the likes of the US and UK but which Ireland has done well to largely resist. Indeed, a number of commentators have rightly noted that much of the criticism is not actually concerned with anything in the Bill itself – instead a kind of ‘proxy’ debate is being played out where other agendas are being advanced.
The legislation will return to the Oireachtas next month for its final stages. It is crucial that the lived experiences of those communities who are actually impacted by hate are placed at the heart of the debate and not drowned out by false narratives or ‘populist’ posturing from those more interested in amplifying culture wars. You can make your voice heard by contacting Senators and urging support for the Bill at www.oireachtas.ie.
Speaking of hate, this summer has also seen the increased targeting of libraries and bookshops by farright agitators seeking to censor and erase LGBTQ+ publications as part of a wholly imported tactic from the very worst elements of US politics.
Their actions have been widely condemned and the NXF would like to add our voice to the many who are demanding that a far more robust approach is taken. These agitators are not engaged in peaceful protest but in harassment and intimidation, which should not be tolerated. In the meantime, we would like to thank those workers and local communities who have stood firm and resolute in rejecting this hateful, anti-LGBTQ+ campaign.
We will not be dragged backwards.