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A kissing protest outside the Dáil today. Leah Farrell/
Shift the hate away

LGBT couples stage 'kissing protest' outside Dáil to demand hate crime legislation

The government said that it was looking at legislative options to address hate crime.

LGBT COUPLES KISSED outside the Dáil today as part of a protest demanding government action on hate crime legislation. 

Organised in response to a number of homophobic attacks in Dublin, protesters gathered together to kiss, hug and hold hands to highlight the lack of hate crime law in Ireland. 

Ireland is one of the few countries in the EU which has no purpose-built legislation to deal with hate crimes, which means that there are no public statistics available on hate crimes or racist attacks. 

Eddie McGuinness, one of the organisers of the Dublin Pride Festival, led the crowd in a kissing protest – dubbed ‘shift the hate away’. 

“It’s difficult at times to walk down the street holding my husband’s hand because you do still get the glances, you still get the glares. And also you still get the verbal abuse of people calling you names,” said McGuinness – who was a victim of a homophobic attack several years ago. 

He said that the reporting system for hate crimes needs to be improved, while the courts need the powers to ensure that “individuals pay for the crimes that they do”. 

In October, a man went to an area in Coolock after arranging a meeting on a dating app. However, when he arrived he was met with a group of teenage boys with weapons and attacked. 

“Legislation needs to come up to the standards where we need it. It’s not taking anyone’s voice away. It is actually giving more power to An Garda Síochána and also the judges to actually be able to to deal with instances of both verbal and physical abuse,” McGuinness said. 

He called on anyone attacked to report it to the Gardaí. “Hate crime is a fact. Hate crime is not going away,” McGuinness added. 

Niall Cowley, who attended the protest, said his friend was attacked two months ago for kissing his boyfriend in public. 

IMG_7037 Eddie McGuinness told people to report any attacks to the Gardaí.

“For some unknown reason, there has been a surge in hate crime incidents,” he said. 

“The police and the guards and the courts aren’t able to deal with his case in any different way than like a drunken brawl on the street. And we all know that the motivations for those two crimes are very different but the courts can’t deal with the crimes any differently,” he said. 

The government is currently carrying out a public consultation on hate speech, while the Department of Justice is researching how other countries use legislation to tackle hate crime. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that this research is being finalised and when completed justice minister Charlie Flanagan “will bring forward proposals for new hate crime legislation”.

The spokesperson added that the department is “working to update Ireland’s criminal law on both hate speech and hate crime as an urgent priority”. 

Also at the protest today was Megan Reilly, the Union of Students in Ireland Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship, who attended the protest with girlfriend Aisling Cusack. 

“We can’t have an effective method of reporting these instances and have any idea about the levels of racial discrimination, the levels of homophobia, transphobia, whatever it is, without having this legislation in place,” she said. 

“It’s very important that we have the legislation in place so people are able to come forward and report, so they’re not worried about reporting,” she added. 

“No better way to spend a lunch break than to go and kiss my girlfriend in protest, demanding the government make a move on laws to protect us,” Cusack said. 

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