1 in 4 Irish people fear losing right to free speech: poll

A new poll shows growing concern among the Irish population about the potential erosion of free speech rights, with one in four respondents feeling restricted in their ability to express opinions in social and professional settings. The sentiment comes as the Irish parliament debates sweeping new “hate speech” legislation that critics fear could seriously affect free expression.

According to the survey by the legal defense group ADF International, conducted by Whitestone Insight, an overwhelming 90% of participants stated that free speech is “very important” to them. The timing is crucial as discussions in the Irish parliament on the proposed legislation coincide with these public concerns.

The survey involved 1,027 adults in Ireland from March 15 to 20, ADF International said in statement announcing the results.

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Lorcan Price, an Irish barrister and legal counsel for ADF International, criticized the proposed legislation at the Ireland Free Speech Summit in Dublin, describing it as one of the “worst examples of censorship in the modern West.” Price said the bill lacks a clear definition of “hate,” potentially allowing the state to arbitrarily censor opposing views.

The proposed Hate Speech Bill includes provisions such as making it an offense to possess materials that could incite hatred, with penalties including up to five years in prison. Further, the bill could force individuals to surrender passwords for electronic devices during investigations, raising serious privacy concerns.

Critics from various sectors were vocal at the summit, underscoring the global ramifications of the bill, especially given Ireland's status as a hub for international social media companies. Michael Shellenberger, an author and journalist, noted that the bill's vague prohibitions could give authorities extensive control over acceptable viewpoints, potentially influencing global online discussions.

The summit, organized by Free Speech Ireland with support from ADF International, featured a diverse group of speakers including independent senators Rónán Mullen and Sharon Keogan, Cambridge lecturer James Orr, and others, such as feminist activist Laoise de Brún and “Father Ted” screenwriter. Graham Linehan. Participants spoke about the importance of maintaining free and open public discourse, arguing against the bill's potential to stifle debate.

Amid the senate's debate on the controversial Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hate and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, supporters are arguing that updated hate speech protections are needed to keep up with developments in social and social media.

In a debate in the Senate last week, Irish Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly sought to justify the proposed law. “If a person's views on other people's identities make their lives unsafe and insecure, and cause them such deep discomfort that they cannot live in peace, our job as legislators is to limit those freedoms for the common good,” The Telegraph . quoted she as saying. “You can't do and say whatever you like in our society.”

However, opponents, including figures like Donald Trump Jr. and Elon Musk, expressed severe reservations, labeling the measures as “crazy” and “very worrying”.

The legislation seeks to extend hate speech protections to include gender identities, raising concerns among campaigners such as Helen Joyce, who fear the law could criminalize expressions deemed to incite “hate” against specific groups without a clear definition of the term.

Speaking to The Christian Post earlier, Kristen Waggoner, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “What we're seeing is a global trend toward censorship. She warned that the United States is 'not immune to authoritarian impulses.'

“And it's not just about disrespecting free speech; it is active targeting of the government's silent speech,” she added.

Source: www.christianpost.com

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