Credit: Irish Freedom Party via Twitter

Free Speech Rally in Dublin hears Hate Speech bill is ‘tyrannical’ attempt at censorship

A free speech rally held in Dublin city centre has heard that the Hate Speech Bill currently before Seanad Éireann would lead to “tyrannical censorship” and must be opposed.

The rally was organised by the Irish Freedom Party (IFP) who said in a statement that the public gathering, held in Dublin’s Custom House, was “successful” and “well attended”. The political party said some 1,200 people attended the event — signalling the “deep concern” felt by ordinary people over the legislation.

“We are not anti asylum seeker,” the IFP said in a statement after Saturday’s rally. “We oppose the Government’s disastrous policy of allowing unvetted migrants to enter our country without limit. It is clear the Government’s immigration and asylum policy is broken and has made Ireland less safe.

“Our rally was good-humoured, peaceful, and required minimal Garda presence. It’s primary purpose was to protest the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, and the large attendance of some 1,200 people is a reflection of the deep concern  that this bill is creating among ordinary people.”

The IFP clarified that the Rally held at Custom House Square was a separate event to “violent” scenes which played out on Mount Street in the city.

“The party did not organise a March or have any involvement with any incidents on Mount Street,” they said, adding: “Government and media efforts to associate the violent events in Mount Street, which took place several hours after our rally had ended, with our peaceful protest against this Draconian anti-civil liberties legislation shows blatant dishonesty.”

The IFP said the apparent conflation of the two events represented “a clear attempt to distract from the serious civil liberties implications of this bill.”

Professor emeritus of philosophy in UCD, Dr Gerard Casey, was among those who addressed the rally. Prof Casey has described the “rushed” Hate Speech legislation as “a law designed to make you afraid”.


Prof Casey pointed to a section of the Harmful Communications Act 2022 which criminalises the “distribution or publication of any threatening or grossly offensive communication”.

“Buried in the Harmful Communications Act 2022 is a section which criminalises the distribution of publication of any threatening or grossly offensive communication to another person intending by such distribution or publication to cause harm, including psychological harm. What, we might wonder, is a grossly offensive communication?”

“Well, you’ll have to look elsewhere other than the act to find out, because the term ‘grossly offensive’ isn’t mentioned in the interpretation section of the act – what a surprise,” he said.

Prof Casey, an outspoken and prominent critic of Hate Speech legislation, said he found himself agreeing with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who made attempts to amend the Bill earlier this month.

Mr Murphy was among a small number of TDs who warned that the Bill could have serious implications for the exercise of freedom of speech and opinion, and the right to protest.

Credit: Irish Freedom Party

“The possibility of this section being used to restrict freedom of speech should be obvious. In a Dáil debate, even Paul Murphy, not someone with whom I usually find myself in agreement, was moved to protest,” he said.

Prof Casey also claimed that Hate Speech legislation could be used to restrict the ability of constituents to contact their politicians, pointing to the section on stalking.

“The Stalking Bill includes a definition of stalking that includes ‘persistently communicating, by any means of communication, with or about a person; attempting to make repeated or unwanted contact with a person; or monitoring a person by any means.’ This section opens the possibility of criminalising attempts to communicate with public representatives; something, obviously, they don’t want you to do,” Prof Casey said.

Independent speaker Malachy Steenson also gave a speech at the rally. He claimed that the political establishment in Ireland “hate” Irish people, arguing that such disdain is reflected in the legislation in question.


Last week, Senator Michael McDowell wrote to Minister Simon Harris, to outline his concerns over the legislation. Under the bill, ‘gender’ would also include gender expression and gender identity.

Appealing for clarity on the issue of gender and gender identity, Senator McDowell wrote:

“I write in connection with the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 which has been passed by Dáil Éireann and is now due for consideration by the Seanad.

In the definitions section the term gender is given the following meaning: “Gender” means the gender of a person or the gender which a person expresses as the person’s preferred gender or with which the person identifies and includes transgender and a gender other than those of male and female”.

Given that Section 18 (1) of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 provides that a gender recognition certificate has effect that if the preferred gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man, and if the female gender the person’s sex becomes that of a woman, I have great difficulty in understanding what is intended by the term “transgender” and the phrase “a gender other than those of male and female”.

Since one of the purposes of the Bill is to expand the concept of protected characteristics beyond the characteristics dealt with in the Framework Directive, it seems to me to be important that members of the Seanad including myself should understand the meaning of the phrases “transgender” and “a gender other than those of male and female”.

The barrister and senator continued:

“In particular, I must ask the following questions:

a)  Is transgender a gender for the purposes of Irish law?


b)  Can you specify what is meant, in addition to transgender, by “any gender other than those of male and female”?

Saturday’s protest followed a Gript investigation, carried out earlier this month, which found that the Government disregarded the results of the public consultation on “hate speech” laws, published in October, which found that 73% of respondents were opposed to the legislation. As reported by Gript’s Ben Scallan”

“A total of 73% of respondents to the government’s consultation – 2627 individuals total – did not support the government’s plan to ban hate speech. Many argued that the only valid restriction on free speech should be credible threats or incitements to violence, but stressed that simple offensive speech should not be criminalised.”

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