AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan
As debates over the First Amendment, digital censorship, and government collusion with Big Tech continue to loom large over American politics, perhaps the gravest threat to free speech in the Western world is now quietly emerging across the pond on the Emerald Isle.
Following days of rioting in Dublin that came in response to an Algerian migrant brutally stabbing a woman and three children in broad daylight on November 23, the Irish government is now actively pushing a so-called “anti-hate speech” law that, if enacted, would likely stand as the most blatant violation of the right to free speech in the West today.
Though Ireland already has laws on the books prohibiting criminal harassment and the incitement of riots, the recently proposed legislation would drastically expand the Irish government’s power to restrict not only speech, but also the mere possession of materials that it deems “likely to incite violence or hatred.”
Specifically, the bill targets any “offense of preparing or possessing material likely to incite violence or hatred against persons on account of their protected characteristics.” The bill defines “hatred” as “hatred against a person or a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their protected characteristics”—which include national origin, “transgender” status, and “gender[s] other than those of male and female.”
The legislation further notes that one of the punishable acts relating to “xenophobia” is “the commission of an act… by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material.”
In other words, under the bill, criticism or even the simple possession of material that is critical of Ireland’s lax immigration policies or leftist gender ideology would likely be deemed illegal—amounting to the effective criminalization of basic political speech. As Elon Musk warned, Irish citizens could be jailed for simply “having a meme on your phone.”
“Racism and xenophobia are direct violations of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, principles upon which the European Union is founded and which are common to the Member States,” the bill states.
In a press release, the Ireland Department of Justice maintained that previous “hate speech” laws on the books were ineffective because they had resulted in “only about 50 prosecutions in the more than 30 years since it was enacted.” The new law, the press release went on, would enact “simpler provisions designed to be more effective in securing convictions”—a clear sign that the Irish government is not only prepared, but also apparently eager to start jailing citizens for expressing dissenting political views.
Though the bill was first introduced more than a year ago, last week’s Dublin riots have served as the latest impetus for Irish progressives to double down on their desire to restrict speech.
Immediately following the riots, which the media has predictably blamed on the “far right” (even though, in the words of columnist Michael Brendan Dougherty, the riots mostly “consisted of the usual opportunistic lootings”) Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar used the occasion to call to “modernize laws against hatred.” An updated set of laws, he said in a speech, must allow Irish authorities to individually “go after” people “who post messages and images online that stir up” what they perceive to be “hatred and violence.”
Polls show that approximately three out of four Irish reject the proposed legislation—and it’s no wonder why. For all of civilizational history, efforts to censor, restrict, or otherwise stigmatize political speech have been a leading indicator of tyrannical and despotic regimes. If Ireland ultimately passes this bill and sends the right to free speech to the chopping block, it is not difficult to imagine that other Western nations might follow suit.
As writer Rod Dreher observed in The European Conservative, “It will not get any better in Ireland, in Britain, or anywhere else if the public simply sits back and waits for better times.” He continued: “If those people don’t take to the streets peacefully to stare down Varadkar’s government and make it retreat, they may not have the liberty to do so in the near future.”
For the good of the right to free speech, the cause of liberty, and perhaps the future of Western civilization itself, citizens of the free world should hope the Irish will peacefully speak up while they still can.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.