Ireland will opt in to collective European measures to ban hate speech, justice minister Helen McEntee has said. She was speaking after the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels (3-4 March).
The minister said that hate speech undermines the foundations of a democratic and inclusive society, and the common values enshrined in the EU treaties. Extending the ‘EU crimes’ list is the first step in addressing this, she added.
However, any proposed legislation to regulate the media or online content must satisfy the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality, IHREC has said.
Only certain, more severe, hate-speech expressions meet the threshold of incitement to hatred, the organisation said last March, in a written submission to the Oireachtas.
The human-rights body has pointed out that not all hate speech merits a criminal-law response. In particular, the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and freedom of assembly must be protected.
IHREC adds that the right to freedom of expression is protected under the Constitution, European and international law, and includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, without interference by public authorities, and regardless of frontiers.
‘Irritating or shocking’ views
IHREC added that the right to freedom of expression also imposes positive obligations on the State to protect authors and journalists, in order to create a favourable environment for expression of opinions and ideas without fear, even if these ideas are “irritating or shocking”.
At Friday’s justice ministers meeting, the decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, which will allow for temporary international protection for those forced to leave their homes in Ukraine, was approved.
Ireland removed visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals on 25 February as an emergency measure.
At the meeting, Home Affairs Ministers approved the decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, which will allow for temporary international protection to be given to people forced to leave their homes due to the situation in Ukraine.
- Other items for discussion on the Home Affairs agenda included:
- Political governance of Schengen area,
- Council regulation on Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism,
- Asylum and migration,
- Civil protection against climate change, and
- Interpol red notices.
Ministers also discussed cooperation in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking, electronic evidence, and access to a lawyer and the rule of law, as well as civil and criminal cooperation measures in place with Russia and Belarus.