203. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce hate crime legislation. [12935/16]


Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Government is firmly committed to combatting and challenging any and all manifestations of racism. We recognise that the impact of hate crime is devastating; being the target of a crime simply for being who you are, or for being perceived as “other” is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
There are robust mechanisms in place in legislation to deal with discrimination, hate speech and racist crime. The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 makes it an offence, inter alia, to use words, publish or distribute written material, or broadcast any visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended, or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred. The word "hatred" is defined as "hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the Travelling community or sexual orientation".
In addition, where criminal offences such as assault, criminal damage, or public order offences are committed against a person based on their race, religion or belief, the offences are prosecuted as generic offences through the wider criminal law. However, a racist or religious motivation, for example, may be taken into account as an aggravating factor at sentencing.
As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have approved a review of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 in the light of reports by civil society, international obligations and the experience of other jurisdictions, given the age of the legislation, the changes in Irish society and the use of the internet and social media since its enactment. The outcome of this review will inform the case for legislative change.