As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is working to update Ireland’s criminal law on both hate speech and hate crime as a priority.
Currently, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 prohibits threatening, abusive or insulting conduct that is intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of persons on account of their sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the travelling community. In addition, a hate motive may be considered by sentencing judges as an aggravating factor increasing the sentence imposed, where a person has been found guilty of a crime such as assault.
A comprehensive public consultation has been carried out to assist in this process of updating the law in this area. This has included a public survey and an opportunity for stakeholders to make formal submissions. This consultation has been carried out to ensure that the Department fully understands the lived experience of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime as well as the views of professionals and other stakeholders in the field, so that the laws developed are robust, clearly understood and effective in dealing with unacceptable incidents.
There has been strong engagement by the public with this topic. The Department has received in the region of 3,800 written responses to the consultation, including approximately 175 detailed written submissions.
In parallel, my Department has carried out comparative research on international best practice on hate crime legislation. This research is currently being finalised and is expected to be published shortly.
My officials are analysing all of these materials, as well as other relevant legal and policy information, to ensure that any legislative proposals which are made are evidence-based, proportionate and effective, while respecting freedom of expression.
There will be a further opportunity for stakeholders to share their views when the legislative proposals on this important issue are published for discussion.
I am confident that the approach being taken - including research and providing the opportunity for experts and members of the public to contribute their expertise and experience - will help to ensure that the legislation will deliver a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone, including members of the LGBTI+ community, now as well as into the future.
More generally, the Deputy may wish to be aware that a Committee is being appointed to oversee the implementation of the Strategy and details of its membership will soon be announced. In addition and in line with the commitments in the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy, my Department has commenced work on a mapping of LGBTI+ community services. A scheme of grants to support the sustainability of such services is also in preparation. It is hoped to be in a position to launch this scheme this autumn; the details of the scheme will be published in advance.