What is Hate Crime?
Hate crimes are signal crimes. They send a message to the victim, and to other people like them, that they are not safe, not wanted, or somehow not a real member of Irish society who is entitled to the same protections or the same freedoms as other people.
Victims of hate crime are made to feel afraid for the future, not just for themselves but for their friends, their loved ones and their children. This type of fear can lead to anger, and ultimately to a more divided society where whole communities can feel unsafe.
Current Legislative Position
Ireland does not currently have any specific legislation to deal with hate crime. The only legislation in Ireland that deals with hate-based offences is the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. Although criminal hate speech is an offence there have been very few prosecutions since its introduction.
This consultation is a significant step towards new criminal legislation to deal with hate crime and incitement to hatred. It involved listening carefully to voices from all sides. Many of those who participated have been victims themselves. Others were concerned about the very real need to respect the human rights of everyone involved, including the right to freedom of speech, so that the new legislation is proportionate, as well as effective in achieving its aims.