Ireland’s new hate crime law protecting trans people is ‘too little too late’, say activists

Trans and Intersex Pride co-founder Ollie Bell holds a megaphone in front of a banner during a Dublin Pride event

Activists have criticised Ireland’s law criminalising hate and violence against trans people, saying it’s ultimately “too little too late”.

The Irish Cabinet approved new legislation that will repeal the previous incitement to hatred laws and is intended to make prosecutions for hate crimes as well as hate speech easier, the Irish Times reported.

The bill will add gender – including gender identity and expression – as well as disability – to a list of protected characteristics covered and was reportedly based on best international practices. 

Any person convicted of purposefully inciting hatred or violence against a trans person could face up to five years in prison, according to the new legislation. 

However, trans advocates in Ireland said the new legislation doesn’t go far enough. 

Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin told PinkNews that the bill is ultimately welcomed as the community needs “hate crime legislation that is fit for purpose”, but it’s ultimately “too little too late”. 

“We’re the only country in the EU without any hate crime legislation, and this bill is weak,” the group said.

“There are many loopholes that need to be repealed.”

‘Far-right people spewing speech’

The bill said that “communication” solely involving discussion or criticism of a protected characteristic would not be considered enough to incite violence or hate. This was reportedly to protect freedom of speech. 

Under the bill, a defendant must have deliberately intended to incite hatred or violence against a person because of their protected characteristics. 

Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin have seen “far-right people spewing speech that’s essentially inciting violence” against the community but was concerned such individuals will be “protected in this bill due to a ‘contribution to literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic debates’,” which is exempt from the bill.

“With the rise in LGBTQ+ attacks in Ireland and with the rise in the far-right in Ireland, we need to repeal these loopholes and we need protection for individuals in the community,” the group said.

Even if these loopholes were closed, Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin said trans people will continue facing the “same marginalisation in Irish society”.

“We still have inadequate gender-affirming care, we still have a state intertwined with the church and we continue to have an increase in attacks on the LGBTQ+ community – both politically and physically,” it said.

“This bill will not fix these issues.”

Helen McEntee, Ireland’s minister for justice, intends to include a “demonstration test” in the bill that will assess if actions are considered a hate crime based on whether the perpetrator expressed hostility about someone’s identity at the time of the offence.

The Irish Cabinet was told this could include the use of slurs, gestures, hateful symbols or graffiti.