The Government is committed to ensuring that the legislative tools are in place to address racism and xenophobia in all forms.
Under Irish law, hate crime is addressed through both the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, and also through the wider criminal law.
The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 includes offences of incitement to hatred on account of race, religion, nationality, ethnic or sexual orientation. In brief, it is an offence to use words, behave, publish or distribute written material, or broadcast any visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended, or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred.
“Hatred” is defined in that Act as “hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation”.
Where a criminal offence such as assault, criminal damage or a public order offence is committed against a person based on their race, religion, colour, ethnicity or some other ground, the offence is prosecuted through the wider criminal law. It is accepted that such an offence can be more serious on account of the hate or prejudice motivating the crime and Irish courts do consider evidence of a crime being motivated by hate or prejudice as an aggravating factor at sentencing.
My Department is currently engaging in a review of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 as well as the criminal law dimension of the wider Government objective of tackling hatred and xenophobia in Irish society. The review will take account of the progress of the Private Members Criminal Law (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill 2016.