Hate speech: Define ‘interest of public policy’

Steven Anderson. Picture: Getty

The government of a free and democratic country has the right and responsibility to refuse entry to people whose presence is deemed unquestionably to be a threat to public order; visitors, for example who pose a problem not because they offer merely unfashionable or controversial political or religious arguments but because they preach violence and hate.

That power under the 1999 Immigration Act has been used for the first time by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to keep an Arizona pastor, Steven Anderson, out of the country. Mr Anderson says he prays for the death of Barack Obama and has advocated the murder of gay people.

These are not radical opinions — they are incitements to murder. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is wisely asking Mr Flanagan to spell out the precise grounds for his decision, announced unhelpfully in the dry language of law that empowers the minister to act in the “interest of public policy”.

The question arises in part because Mr Anderson, persona non grata in Britain, also has form as a Holocaust denier. For sound philosophical reasons, that isn’t a criminal offence in this country, as it isn’t in the UK.

Germany and Austria have an all too obvious basis for their laws making it a punishable offence.

Asked why this is not so here, we would say, firstly, it’s because we are not so dim as to believe the rubbish spewed by deniers and, secondly, that the expedient of silencing them can fuel their absurd conspiracy narratives and shield them from the ridicule they would otherwise attract if they were permitted to speak freely.

More on this topic

Local authority is to reverse a move to exclude the media and public from policy meetings

Latest poll indicates five-point lead for Fianna Fáil

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin apologises for Labour comments

Nigel Farage accuses Jo Brand of inciting violence over battery acid joke

More in this Section

A call for EU to halt criminalisation of humanitarian support for refugees

What killer teenagers can expect at Oberstown

Ireland should follow Britain’s lead in surrogacy law reform

Youths’ online usage under the spotlight


George Ezra fizzes with fun as pop's Mr Nice Guy brings his uplifting lyrics to Cork

Animation with emotion: Irish animators on what makes Pixar the best

Step aside London and Paris: The alternative fashion weeks are giving cutting edge fashionistas what they really want

Scene and Heard: Five-minute Theatre For One and George Ezra top picks in Cork

More From The Irish Examiner