Incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris opposes demands to scrap Irish hate crime and hate speech legislation

The soon-to-be Taoiseach denied calls from Sinn Féin party leaders to scrap the hate crime and hate speech legislation that was first drafted in 2022.

This article is about Simon Harris refusing to scrap hate speech legislation. A photo of newly appointed Fine Gael leader and Wicklow TD Simon Harris.
Image: @simonharristd on X, Soon-to-be Taoiseach and newly-appointed Fine Gael leader Simon Harris denied calls from Sinn Féin leaders to scrap Hate Speech legislation.

Irish Higher Education Minister and incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris, who was recently appointed the new head of Fine Gael following Leo Varadkar’s departure from the position, has announced that he will not back down when it comes to moving forward with the new hate crime and hate speech legislation in Ireland.

Harris, who will take over Varadkar’s role as Taoiseach on April 9, 2024, rejected calls from Sinn Féin party leaders to scrap the upcoming hate crime and hate speech bill, as they believe that the legislation is not fit for purpose. 

The legislation, known formally as the Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences Bill 2022, was originally drafted under Varadkar’s government, but has yet to be fortified into law. The bill seeks to clarify, update, and modernise Ireland’s legislation surrounding hate speech, as well as introduce protections from hate crimes. 

In a response aimed at Sinn Féin party leaders, Harris said: “I think it is clear that our stature books do require updating in relation to [hate speech]. I think it is also fair to say within that space that there have been a number of legitimate questions raised by people about the content of the legislation.”

Harris went on to refuse calls to scrap the previously penned legislation, but admitted that he expects the bill to undergo significant amendments as it moves forward.

“I think if we have learned anything from the referendum, I think politicians should approach all of these issues with humility and listen to people and the concerns that they are raising,” Harris continued. 

“I absolutely know that that’s what my colleague and friend Minister [Helen] McEntee is doing. It is what she said she would do and therefore, I would expect revisions certainly and amendments in relation to legislation.”

According to Harris, he has yet to discuss the details of the hate crime and hate speech legislation with his fellow Fine Gael party members. 

The National LGBT Federation (NXF), one of the over 20 civil society groups that have come together to form the Coalition Against Hate Crime, has expressed its deep concerns at calls in recent days to scrap the Hate Crime Bill. The organisation, along with the wider Coalition, intends to make contact with government leaders seeking clear guarantees that their commitment to enact the Bill will be honoured.


NXF Board Director Adam Long stated: “We welcome the comments from incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris rejecting irresponsible calls to scrap what is a crucially important piece of legislation that has long been a priority for the LGBTQ+ and other impacted communities.”

“It has been quite clear for some time now that our laws in this area need to be modernised and made fit-for-purpose in tackling what is an alarming rise in hate crimes and a proliferation of extreme hate speech in the online space in particular,” Long continued. “The right of people not to be targeted for who they are and to feel safe in this country is more important than contrived ‘culture wars’ or ‘populist’ politics.”

On Sunday, March 24, Harris addressed Fine Gael party members for the first time as head of the political party, saying that he would use his time as party leader to press his ministerial team for “priorities,” including the hate crime and hate speech bill. 


Harris similarly told Fine Gael party members that he hopes that his Government will be one of “equality of opportunity” with the “moral courage to admit shortcomings”. 

Harris recently met with outgoing Taoiseach Varadkar to discuss the transfer of power as Harris prepares to take on the mantle on April 9. 

In the run-up to Harris’s appointment as Taoiseach, the Fine Gael leader similarly stated that he hopes to meet with other party leaders, including Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Tánaiste Micheál Martin, to ensure a smooth and successful transfer of power. 

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