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Helen McEntee Alamy Stock Photo
Division in the camp

McEntee has 'taken concerns on board' and hopes to publish amendments to Hate Speech Bill soon

Some in Fine Gael have called for the proposed legislation to be scrapped.

FOLLOWING SOME PUSHBACK from within Fine Gael and from opposition parties, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she has taken on board concerns and hopes to publish amendments to the proposed hate speech legislation soon.

This comes following calls from some quarters of Fine Gael to scrap the bill entirely. 

Fine Gael TD and former Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was one member of the party in favour of ditching the bill. 

He advised Fine Gael and its new party leader Simon Harris to concentrate on housing, health, and law and order. 

Likewise, former Fine Gael minister Micheal Ring called for the legislation to be scrapped and for Fine Gael to move away from “left-wing” politics. 

He told RTÉ’s This Week programme that Fine Gael has been “too left for too long” and that it needs to go back to core issues like law and order. 

However, both Ring and Flanagan voted in favour of the bill when it passed through the Dáil last April.

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on justice TD Pa Daly also called for the bill to be scrapped yesterday in a u-turn on the party’s previous position (Sinn Féin and Pa Daly also voted in favour of the bill when it passed through the Dáil last year).

Speaking to reporters in Mayo today, Minister McEntee denied that there was a problem in Fine Gael with the hate speech legislation. 

“As is the case with every party, there are people with different views,” she said. 

McEntee said the legislation is an important commitment in the programme for Government and stressed that members of An Garda Síochána have made it clear to her that hate crime is on the increase.

“There are people in our country, who do not feel safe simply because of who they are,” she said. 

“But as has been the case, for any legislation that I brought forward, I’m listening to and I’m engaging with colleagues. Where issues and concerns have been raised, I’m taking them on board with a number of amendments that have been developed, and I hope to be able to publish them soon,” she said. 

Simon Harris

Speaking last night, Simon Harris – who is set to become Taoiseach on April 9 – said he wasn’t aware that Sinn Féin was now calling for the bill to be scrapped.

“That’s some turn-about from them but sure we are used to that,” Harris said. 

Harris said it is clear that Ireland’s statute books need updating but he said there have been a number of legitimate questions raised about the legislation and that revisions are now required.

Harris said:

If we’ve 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.

He added: “I absolutely know, that’s what my colleague and friend Minister McEntee is doing and it’s what she said she would do. And therefore, I would expect revisions, certainly, and amendments in relation to legislation.”

Some Fianna Fáil members have also recently expressed a desire to move away from the hate speech legislation.

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