If the Irish government gets its way, people could soon be arrested and jailed for ‘hate speech’ – even if they never say or write a single ‘hateful’ word.

The new Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, which is currently passing through the Irish parliament, contains some shockingly authoritarian provisions. The bill will outlaw the ‘communication’ of material or speech that might ‘incite hatred’ against people with certain protected characteristics (such as race, religion and gender). In practice, if other European hate-speech laws are any guide, ‘inciting hatred’ tends to mean little more than causing offence. This can be punishable by up to five years in prison.

As the ‘possession’ provision makes abundantly clear, the real aim of this bill, just like every hate-speech law before it, is not to protect minorities, but to restrict the views of the masses. It is an attempt to make George Orwell’s ‘thoughtcrime’ a reality – to scare people from holding beliefs that are not approved of by the state.

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