Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has warned against the danger of criminalising “stupid” remarks in an attempt to tackle hate crimes and hate speech, which he says would “criminalise the wrong people.”
The comments were made this week during a debate on the controversial Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, which would see a variety of hate crime laws introduced in Ireland.
Discussing the Bill, Ó Ríordáin warned that there were instances in which people made “stupid” comments in the heat of the moment during an argument, but that this was not necessarily the same as being a wilful “hate criminal.”
“What we do not want is somebody who is in an altercation and says something stupid then labelled a hate criminal,” the Dublin Bay North TD said.
“…We do not want legislation that ends up criminalising the wrong people. There is a whole world of a difference between somebody who is motivated to attack somebody based on their ethnicity or other characteristics, versus somebody who gets involved in an altercation and who then uses that person’s ethnicity or characteristics as a slur as a result of that altercation.”
He added that, by conflating the two situations, it was possible to “lose” the person.
“If we equate those two instances, I think we will be doing a disservice to the person in the second case,” he said.
“We will then possibly have lost that person forever. That happens far too often when you criminalise somebody. In a certain circumstance, they could be gone.”
Ó Ríordáin went on to outline how, by effectively turning someone into a “hate criminal,” that can drive the person to take that on as part of their identity.
“In certain circumstances, what can happen to a young person is that they double down on that,” he said.
“They will say, “I have just been labelled as somebody who has just committed a hate crime”. They can be influenced by people in that sphere who will turn them into a victim. That will then be a fork in the road of their lives.”
Ó Ríordáin added that legislators were “conflicted” on the matter, conceding that “It is not an easy issue.” He called for “further investigation into this matter.”
Ó Ríordáin and his party have long been advocates of so-called “hate speech” laws, calling for “robust hate-speech legislation” for years before the current Bill.
Appreciate the reply Aodhan. 👍
— Aidan O'Donovan (@mistermogue) October 31, 2019