Closure of DPP probe clears the path for complaint to Press Ombudsman.
ICCL Press Release, for immediate release
Tuesday 10 November 2015
Ireland’s independent human rights watchdog, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has noted that, following a lengthy criminal investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions has reportedly decided not to press criminal charges of incitement to hatred against Ms Brenda Power.
This particular criminal investigation arose from an article that Ms Power penned for the Irish Daily Mail tabloid in April 2014. In her article, Ms Power made a number of highly-derogatory assertions about the Traveller community.
The legal basis for prosecution for incitement to hatred is Section 2 of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 which makes it an offence to publish written material, words, visual images, etc., that are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or likely to stir up hatred.
The legislation has long been criticised as unworkable in practice because it sets an unattainably high threshold for prosecutions. Despite an undertaking to review it made over a decade ago by the Department of Justice (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/review-of-incitement-to-hatred-law-announced-1.1099640), it still has not been revised, up-dated or clarified. This latest failure to prosecute is a reminder of the pressing need to render this legislation more robust in order more effectively to combat future manifestations of hate speech. The ICCL would like to see far clearer legal guidance demarcating the line between freedom of expression and hate speech so that people can engage freely in debate while also respecting the rights of protected groups not to be subjected to hate speech.
The ICCL strenously upholds the right to freedom of expression, but recalls that it is not an absolute right – freedom of expression is limited by anti-hate speech protections. In any truly democratic society it is essential that minority groups can live their lives free from fear and persecution. It is fair to criticise criminal behaviour but it is neither just nor fair to attribute unacceptable behaviour by some individuals to an entire group of people based exclusively on their membership of the Traveller community
Commenting on the closure of the current crime probe against Brenda Power, ICCL Executive Director Mr Mark Kelly said:
“In April 2014, the ICCL formally complained to the Press Ombudsman that Power’s article egregiously violates Principle 8 of the Press Council’s Code of Practice, which explicitly prohibits the publication of material intended to stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their membership of the Traveller community. That complaint has been suspended pending the DPP’s decision on criminal charges and the path is now clear for it to proceed to adjudication. The ICCL looks forward to learning the Press Ombudsman’s views regarding Power’s professional conduct.”
Note to Editors:
Section 2 of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 states that:
2.—(1) It shall be an offence for a person—
(a) to publish or distribute written material,
(b) to use words, behave or display written material—
(i) in any place other than inside a private residence, or
(ii) inside a private residence so that the words, behaviour or material are heard or seen by persons outside the residence,
(c) to distribute, show or play a recording of visual images or sounds,
if the written material, words, behaviour, visual images or sounds, as the case may be, are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred.
Principle 8 of the Press Council Code of Practice states:
Newspapers and magazines shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, colour, ethnic origin, membership of the travelling community, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age.
 “If Travellers want ethnic status, they ought to get rid of those slash hooks and settle”, page 14, Irish Daily Mail, Tuesday 8 April 2014.