Written by Joanna Hughes

A series of attacks on Ireland’s LGBT community has led to a push for the Irish government to make hate crimes illegal. Here’s a closer look at the situation, as recently reported by Reuters.

A Call for Change

A brick through the window of an LGBT bar. Homophobic graffiti on another LGBT establishment. A violent attack on a gay couple. These are among the events that have spurred LGBT activists to call for government intervention.

Ireland’s National LGBT Federation (NFX) board member Adam Long said, “We have made legal strides in recent years. It has been a long time coming, but people now feel that they are equal citizens...Ireland is an outlier in the Western world for not having the legislation and it is time the government stepped up to the mark. We are not going to retreat back into the shadows.”

Catching Up with the Western World

Already, most other European countries have either enacted legislation and/or criminalized hate speech. And while Ireland has made progress in enacting laws protecting the rights of its LGBT citizens, and also became the first country to enact gay marriage by popular vote, campaigners insist that there is more work to be done.

Academics at the University of Limerick have drafted a bill that would incorporate all hate crimes into the law. Senior lecturer in law Jennifer Schweppe said, “If we don’t recognize hate crimes through legislation we are missing out on the message that it can send that this sort of behavior is not tolerated by society.”

Sinn Fein senator Fintan Warfield, imploring the government to take action, said, “We need the political will of the government [to change the law]. I’ve experienced physical homophobia myself and the effect of such an incident is that it can be quite internal -- it’s not like having your bike stolen.”

However, not all agree that the move is necessary. Ireland’s junior justice and equality minister David Stanton argued, “Other countries in which there is hate crime legislation in place have major problems, but we do not.”

According to a representative of justice and equality minister Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s existing legislation is under review.

 




Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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