Opinion: Why We Need Hate Crime Legislation In Ireland

Hate speech should have consequences and until we introduce hate crime legislation, we have nothing to deter the preaching of homophobes, writes Conor Kelly.

People at a vigil, a woman is holding a sign which reads

If this government does not do the right thing and enact the proper and important legislation, we are saying to all those of different background and orientation that to live in this society “you need to hide who you are”. We are telling them that “you shouldn’t feel free to hold your partner’s hand walking down Grafton Street out of fear of weird and uncomfortable looks and comments from strangers”.

The murder of Declan Flynn in 1982 is what happens when people are denied the right to exist. Flynn was targeted and killed simply for being himself.

He died because under the law he was an illegal entity in the eyes of a state that was supposed to protect him.

I was not alive in the 1980s when that happened, and I never lived in a country where being LGBT+ was a crime.

I will never know the pain of being an illegal entity but the reason I never experienced it is the reason we need hate crime legislation: to make sure that someone being their true self is protected by law so we don’t step back into the past but continue to progress as a society. Three years ago, we momentously achieved marriage equality and by doing so, this country told the present and future generations we accept you.

The necessary legislation is a deterrent telling homophobes and bigots, who feel the need to harass and preach hate towards diverse communities, that yes you do have a right to free speech but that only exists with consequences when you decide to live with hate in your heart towards others.

Hate crime legislation will protect people from the hatred of others and tell the young person who may be of a different race, sexual orientation or culture that they are protected from the hate preachers who decide to step up on a crate on O’Connell Street with a megaphone preaching about how “LGBT+ people are wrong and are going to hell”.

We were not put on this earth to hate, but there are some people out there who have made it their mission to spread their gospel of hate and discrimination. For that simple reason, we need to show those people you are not free from consequences and you are not free from the law!

Only until we’re all protected by the law, none of us is free.

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