Ireland's planned hate speech laws have reportedly left politicians in the country spooked after the traumatic arrest of an autistic girl in the UK. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)


Irish hate-speech plans spook politicians after autistic girl’s UK arrest


Ireland’s planned anti-hate-speech laws have reportedly left politicians in the country spooked after the arrest of an autistic girl in the UK.

Footage of the girl being dragged away by police in West Yorkshire went viral online in early August, with officers initially attempting to justify the arrest by claiming that the teenager was accused of engaging in speech that was potentially homophobic.

Government lawmakers in Ireland are now urging Irish justice minister Helen McEntee to rethink plans to implement a similar hate-speech regime in the country later this year.

“There are some things that people should not be arrested for, some stuff comes down to bad manners, rudeness or ignorance,” said Cathal Crowe, a parliamentarian for Ireland’s ruling Fianna Fáil party.

He added that while he was in favour of prosecuting hate speech in principle, the arrest in neighbouring England proved that Ireland’s current hate-speech bill – which has numerous similarities to the current British legislation – needs “a huge amount of refining”.

Such sentiment has been echoed by other parliamentarians in the country, with media outlet reporting that a number of ruling MPs and Senators have requested to meet McEntee over the proposed bill.

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said that the UK’s hate-speech legislation enabled the police to act “in a coercive and cruel way towards someone they were supposed to be helping”.

Speaking to Brussels Signal regarding the situation, a spokesman for the Free Speech Ireland campaign group said that the arrest of the disabled teenager illustrated the problems posed by Ireland’s planned hate-speech rules.

“A common argument by those supporting hate-speech legislation is that it will make Ireland a kinder society. Judging by our closest neighbour where similar laws are in effect, the case will be anything but,” the spokesman said.

“Ireland should learn from abroad rather than repeating the failures of hate speech legislation,” he added.

Despite the backlash, McEntee has so far rejected all calls for the proposed legislation to be amended, despite many now calling on her to resign over issues to do with the bill as well as rising crime across Ireland.