Irish Green Party Sen. Pauline O’Reilly defended a controversial bill that could jail citizens for merely possessing material that criticizes gender identity.
The Irish Criminal Justice Bill purportedly targets “hate speech,” but some critics have compared it to the concept of punishing people for “thought crime,” a term popularized by George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
The text of the “Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022,” notes that a person can be imprisoned if they “prepare or possess” material that is “likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics,” one of which being “gender” identity.
The Catholic Herald observed in past months that the legislation could lead to criminalization of Catholic teaching and religious expression in general, “The Catholic Church has long-standing objective positions on issues, which, if they are to be uttered in public (and that may include the pulpit), may cause the priest or other adherent to be made subject to prosecution.”
O’Reilly defended the bill in a speech on Tuesday as she debated its merits with her peers, even as she condemned some of their rhetoric on “gender or sexual identities.” After suggesting social media has “fueled hatred” and revealed the “dirty, filthy, underbelly of hatred in Irish society,” O’Reilly argued that hate speech legislation is merely another necessary law to restrict freedom for the “common good.”
“When one thinks about it, all law and all legislation is about the restriction of freedom. This is exactly what we are doing here,” O’Reilly argued. “We are restricting freedom but we are doing it for the common good.”
She then suggested that people should not be free to disagree with people’s identities, warning this “discomfort” is a severe hazard.
She continued, “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 restrict those freedoms for the common good.”
“One cannot do and say whatever one likes in our society, which is a society governed by laws,” she added. “This is very fundamental to a legislative system. It should be one of the very fundamentals for any legislators who sit in this Chamber that they understand what we do is restrict freedoms.”
The senator also addressed “gender” directly, claiming that young people in society “are absolutely shocked that we are even having any kind of conversation about what other people’s gender is.” She claimed that society has had an issue “down through generations,” where people “have been fearful about walking outside their door because they are attacked verbally,” a process she said that “restricts their freedoms.”
She framed the debate about this legislation instead as a debate over “whether we can move forward toward a kinder society.”
Earlier in the debate, Sen. Rónán Mullen noted the hazards of punishing people for questioning something as hotly debated as gender ideology.
“There are about 105 genders listed on the Internet, including agender, acegender, androgyne, apogender, astronomique, cookie gender, gendercat, fluid queer, one that I cannot politely render here, hyperfluid, etc,” he noted. “All of this is now being landed in the middle of a criminal law bill where somebody could be attacked for being a hater for stating in robust, but necessarily robust, terms that not only is this nonsense but it is dangerous nonsense that puts children at risk when it is imported into the curriculum of schools.”
He followed by listing a series of scenarios that possibly could land a person afoul of the potential law.
“Will mocking memes be tolerated? Will robust campaigning by parents against inappropriate school curricula be allowed?” he asked. “Will carrying a placard stating ‘Men cannot breastfeed’ warrant a hate speech investigation or up to five years’ imprisonment, a lifelong label as a criminal hater and all of the stigma and life limitation that goes with that? Nobody actually knows.”