(The Daily Signal) – Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance sent a letter Tuesday to Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason expressing strong concerns about legislation that would undermine Irish citizens’ freedom of speech.
Vance’s letter, first obtained by The Daily Signal, references the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, which is supported by Irish politicians such as Sen. Pauline O’Reilly, who is in the country’s Green Party.
“We are restricting freedom but we’re doing it for the common good,” O’Reilly said in viral remarks earlier this year as she discussed the legislation. “Yes, you have rights, but they are restricted for the common good.”
The Ohio Republican warns that this Irish bill is “full of vague prohibitions that would chill important public debate if they were to become law, particularly with respect to the most controversial and publicly significant matters.”
“Given that President de Valera himself was imprisoned for sedition in 1918, I urge your government to consider the impact of this legislation on Ireland’s proud tradition of free speech,” Vance wrote.
The proposed Irish legislation would criminalize “behav[ing] in a public place in a manner … that is likely to incite … hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics [while] being reckless as to whether … hatred is thereby incited,” as Vance pointed out.
“What on earth does that mean?” questioned the senator. “Would the prohibition include ‘recklessly’ attributing social ills, like crime, to increased immigration to Ireland? Would it include ‘recklessly’ affirming that gender is biologically determined and that there are only two genders, male and female?”
“Even if a court would not interpret the law to prohibit that sort of activity, Irish citizens could be forgiven for thinking that it does,” he said. “And if those citizens self-censor to protect themselves from prosecution, Ireland will be robbed of the meaningful public discourse that all democracies need.”
Vance pointed out that the United States “routinely condemns” censorious conduct from countries like China, Iran, or Myanmar, noting that the State Department just imposed visa restrictions on Iranian government officials who are suspected to have been involved in censoring the rights of peaceful protesters.
“I am alarmed that one of our closest friends, a democracy dedicated to upholding cherished freedoms, should undertake such legislation,” the senator said. He concluded the letter by calling upon the Irish ambassador to explain whether the legislation would be consistent with Ireland’s treaty obligations and whether the bill would be applicable to all classes of foreign visitors to Ireland, including U.S. government officials.
The ambassador did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Signal.