Republicans oppose free speech??

Many readers will be aware that over recent months there has been an upsurge in discussion around “hate speech” legislation in Ireland. This is primarily due to the Free State’s public consultation titled: Review of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989; and the far-right attempts to use this as a subject to rally around.

The far-right rarely give a scant mention to the fact that there is current legislation in place, they prefer to allow people to believe that is a brand new concept for Ireland. The current 1989 Act prohibits certain forms of threatening, abusive or insulting conduct that are intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of persons on account of certain characteristics. These characteristics are race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community and sexual orientation.

Freestate public consultation

There have been public rallies held by these far-right groups opposing proposed legislation, which has resulted in skirmishes with Anti-Fascist and Republican groups. Every so often Gemma O’Doherty type disciples have gathered in Dublin to speak out against the states attempts to hamper Free speech. Such events have been attended by Former British soldier Rowan Croft, known by his online alias Gran Torino, among other well-known far-right activists.

In the main, those confronting the far-right at these rallies have been anti-fascist and Republican activists, following these confrontations the far-right activists will generally go online bemoaning the opposition and accusing those who oppose them of being anti Free speech and linking the opposition of their gatherings to supporting the proposed legislation.

Clashes between anti-fascists and far-right

So why would Republicans be supporting this legislation? Republicans would most certainly be the object of charges arising out it. We have seen in the last 12 months alone a concerted effort by the state to close down Republican social media sites and criminalise the Republican Ideology, traditionally Republicans in Ireland have been the main target for state censorship with section 31 which prohibited Republican voices being broadcast only being removed in 1994.

The reality is that Republicans do not support any such legislation, what the far-right know full well and fail to tell the public, is that opposition to them on the street is not around Free Speech or any proposed legislation emanating from the Free State. It is because they espouse views, which are fascist, racist and discriminatory, something that is abhorrent to Republicans, anti-Fascists and most right-minded people in Ireland. Their abysmal showing at the recent Free State election, which they encouraged people to vote in, shows the total rejection of Irish society to such racist and discriminatory ideology.

They claim to be ‘patriots’ yet for them Ireland stops at the British imposed border. They use Republican imagery and our national flag to try to sell insidious lies to our young people. It is only right that they should be opposed and confronted, we must always make a stand against far-right extremists, and Republicans have a long and proud history of confronting them, most notably opposing the Blueshirts in the 1930s, leading at times to serious clashes.

Blueshirts in 1930s

Irish Republicans very much oppose limits to our Freedom of speech and expression; we are victims of the state’s attempts of silencing more than anyone else, both north and south. I, myself have been arrested and charged with “encouraging terrorism” for daring to outline the Republican position on television. Damien Fennell, a Belfast based Republican spent time in prison for giving an Easter Oration in which he quoted Máire Drumm’s famous saying “It isn’t enough to shout up the IRA, the important thing is to join the IRA.” All this happening in recent times.

The Special Criminal Court is another example of where Republicans are denied justice and are subject to state oppression and censorship, this is a Diplock court and oft times subject to secret evidence by shady secret security forces. All it takes for someone to find themselves in the SCC on IRA membership charges is the word of a Garda Superintendent.

Evidence of alleged IRA membership can be as absurd as owning a book on the IRA or having a picture on your phone of a deceased IRA member. If this is not a denial of Freedom of expression, I do not know what is.

With all this in mind and more, the illogical notion that Republicans are in some way supporting further legislation around free speech is just a plain lie, designed by the far-right to cover up what people’s actual opposition to them is.
To genuinely confront the extremists of the far-right, we must not allow them to seize upon serious issues to attract a following; we must not be reluctant to speak on issues we believe in that are associated with them. They are experts at using populist issues to gain support; these issues mask the true dark underbelly of who and what they are.

I believe the issue around tightening up Free Speech legislation must now be looked at seriously by Republicans and if need be a campaign created around it.


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