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SCALLAN: “Public consultations” are now a proven sham

Many of us always suspected that “public consultations” by the government were a sham.

As one of the submissions to the hate speech consultation prophetically said back in 2019: “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, you’ll do what you want regardless.”

That person didn’t know how right they were when they wrote that – and now, we actually have the concrete proof.

Towards the end of 2019, the government opened a public consultation asking people to share their thoughts on a series of proposed so-called “hate speech” laws that were in the works. This consultation, which included a survey and an opportunity to write to the Department of Justice, received over 3,600 responses from ordinary citizens.

While these responses were published in full on the Department’s website last October, they have remained there basically unscrutinised for 7 months, because nobody is insane enough to sit down and pour over thousands of submissions about hate speech.

But, luckily for you, I’m not nobody – which is why I spent much of this week doing just that. I actually went over each and every submission one-by-one, painstakingly tallying up in a spreadsheet how many individuals were supportive of hate speech laws, how many were opposed to the laws, and so on.

And yes – it was every bit as tedious as it sounds. But it’s done now – and the findings were truly amazing.

Yesterday, yours’ truly published an article highlighting the fact that the overwhelming majority of the responses – 73.09%, to be absolutely precise – expressed their general opposition to “hate speech” laws as the government defines them.

Only 24.1% were supportive of the government’s proposal, with a further roughly 3% or so having a mixed or unclear view on the subject. The article can be viewed in full here if you’d like to read the entire report.

But what’s really amazing about this is, by pursuing hate speech laws despite this result, the government are effectively wiping their backsides with their own consultation. They asked the public “Hey, do you guys want this?” And when they were emphatically told “No, definitely not” by the vast majority of respondents, they just shrugged and said “Ah well – let’s do it anyway.”

What this should tell you is, they never really cared about the public’s input or consent to begin with. They had already made their minds up as to what policy they wanted to pursue, and they were simply trying to launder support for that policy through an apparent “public consultation” regime that they hoped to manipulate in their favour.

And we don’t have to speculate about that either – it’s clear what kind of responses the government were hoping to get from this consultation, and how they tried to skew the results towards a desired outcome. Take the following tweet from the Justice Department as a prime example.

While linking to the consultation above, they decided to include an image with the words “Can we silence hate speech?” This is of course presupposing that “hate speech” is a real and valid concept, and that it’s a good thing to silence it – neither of which is a given or widely agreed upon. And then the Department proceeds to tag a number of state-funded NGOs such as Pavee Point, which are known to be prominent supporters of hate speech laws – presumably so those NGOs and their employees will see the link, and flood it with their own responses.

The Department made a similar post on another occasion around the same time, this time tagging other state-funded NGOs such as the Irish Refugee Council, the Irish Network Against Racism, and others – again, all prominent supporters of hate speech laws.

Just speaking as a general rule, it seems noteworthy that if you’re a pro-migrant, “anti-racist” NGO, your financial existence sort of depends on Ireland being a racist country. After all, if you don’t have leaky pipes, you don’t need a plumber, and if you don’t have a racist society, you don’t need professional anti-racist campaigners. Racism is, in a real sense, their lifeblood – if Ireland isn’t a society full of “hate speech” and bigotry, then there’s no need for these groups (or their multi-million euro annual paycheque courtesy of the Irish taxpayer).

So what we effectively have here is the government giving public money to groups, so that those groups can then petition the same government to implement hate speech laws which the public oppose, but which are in the NGOs’ own financial interest. This is the shambolic way that this consultation was conducted.

Even the questions asked during the survey were ludicrously biased – for example, “What groups or communities of people in Ireland are targeted by hate speech?” That was actually a real question asked during the questionnaire (the first question, in fact).

This question simply assumes that “hate speech” is a real, universally-agreed upon concept (newsflash: it isn’t), and it also assumes that there are groups in Ireland being targeted by this speech, which is in no way a given or a proven fact. It is, at the very least, up for debate. So even the way the questions are framed is a joke and a pisstake.

And yet, despite all of this chicanery, the government still didn’t get what they wanted. Despite the NGO manipulation, and the biased questions, and the biased imagery; despite the society-wide, media-driven propaganda campaign to steer people towards a particular answer; despite the emotional blackmail and dishonest framing of the issue…

…even still, 73% of respondents told them to take a hike. And what was the government’s response to this embarrassing defeat?

Well, they simply disregarded that result, and drove ahead with the policy regardless, as they always planned to.

In fact, they did worse than that – they tried to insinuate that the volume of responses they received was actually an indication that there was support for the hate speech plans – a literal inversion of the truth.

As the Department said in a tweet following the submissions, “Today @HMcEntee launches findings of consultation that received over 3.6k submissions that will lead to new hate crime laws in Ireland. Legislation is now being developed.”

If you weren’t aware of the facts here, you would naturally conclude that those 3,600 submissions must have been overwhelmingly positive, which is why the government will be proceeding with the plan as intended. That’s clearly how it reads to the uninformed. And presumably the Department knew that, which is why they posted it, assuming that nobody would bother to go through all of the thousands of inputs and catch them out. It is tantamount to a lie by omission.

In reality, you don’t get points for listening to the public’s view on an issue if you then turn around and do the exact opposite of what you were asked to do. People don’t pay politicians to simply listen – they pay them to enact the public’s will. Anything else is the pinnacle of anti-democratic spoofing.

Now, some people will naturally conclude from all of this that public consultations are rigged, useless, and don’t change anything. And that is absolutely, inarguably true – I wouldn’t for a moment try to suggest otherwise.

But I would submit to you that it’s still worth filling out the next one that comes across your desk, even if the government will ignore it anyway, just so that we have things like this on record. It’s better to make them pursue a policy which we can prove was opposed by 73% of people, rather than abstaining from the process and letting politicians pretend they have a false support. While these consultations can’t stop bad policies going through, they can show up bad politicians for the devious shysters they are, and for that reason alone, it’s worth engaging with them – even if only in a cynical way.

Still and all, the whole “consultation” process is clearly a joke. At least the next time the government proposes “consulting the public” on a major policy, we’ll know in advance they intend to use our submissions as toilet paper.


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