Limerick TD breaks party ranks over claims of playing to ‘woke gallery’

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea.

LOCAL Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has broken ranks with party leadership over its support of proposed hate speech legislation, describing it as “woke” and calling for it to be abandoned.

The outspoken former Minister for Defence also had a cut off his party’s coalition partners, the Green Party, and non-governmental organisations, who he described as “out of touch” with the public.

“Fianna Fáil needs to get back to basics and abandon the Hate Speech Bill,” Deputy O’Dea wrote on his X (formerly Twitter) account.

The veteran Limerick politician hit out that his party should instead “focus on housing, health, and law and order, and stop playing to the woke gallery”.

“Start listening to the people, stop talking down to them and stop listening to the out of touch Greens and NGOs,” he said, including a “#Referendum2024” tag.

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Deputy O’Dea is expected to join the Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil party leader Michael Martin at a media opportunity in Limerick later this evening ahead of the party’s selection convention next week for its directly-elected Mayor of Limerick candidate.

The government had hoped to have incitement to hate legislation on the statute books by late last year, but it faced delays in light of rioting following a stabbing attack on three children and an adult outside a school in Dublin City last November.

The new hate speech and hate crime bill aims to repeal the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, with the government saying the current laws are not fit for purpose, particularly in the age of online social media commentary.

Those opposed to the legislation have expressed fears it goes too far and is damaging to freedom of expression.

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has defended the proposed legislation, saying there is a clear difference between a person holding an offensive view about characteristics including race, colour, nationality, religion, national or ethnic origin, descent, gender (including gender expression or identity), sex, sexually orientation, and disability – and that of a person directing hate at others because of their views on characteristics.

Section 10 of the controversial proposed bill will make it an offence to create content that would incite violence, with the intention of communicating it, but having not yet communicated it publicly.

Section 7 of the proposed legislation – the creation of a new offence of incitement to hatred – is based on a person intending or being reckless in communicating material publicly that is likely to incite violence or hatred.

Section 11 allows for discussion or criticism of matters relating to a protected characteristic.

Meanwhile, in a further political dig at government parties, again including his own Fianna Fáil, Deputy O’Dea told RTÉ News At One today that he did not support the referendums on Family and Care – neither on the doorsteps prior to last Friday’s vote nor at the ballot box in his native Limerick.

Deputy O’Dea said that when he went into the ballot box last Friday, he voted ‘No’ to both the 39th and 40th amendments to the constitution.

He said the referendums were ill considered and badly explained and that Fianna Fáil should not have gone along with them.

“I didn’t actively campaign for the Yes-Yes vote, I didn’t feel conscientiously I could,” Deputy O’Dea said.

The Limerick TD said that many government party TDs felt that they too could not support the referenda and were worried about how the courts would interpret the changes in the proposed legislation such as “durable relationship”.

On the care referendum, he said the removal of the word “mother” from the Constitution was, in his view, “a smack of virtue signalling”, and he “didn’t see anything very substantial in it”.

Deputy O’Dea said that there was serious anti-social behaviour as well as “horrendous” law and order problems in Limerick and elsewhere, which he said he felt the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee should be prioritising over hate speech legislation.

He added there was enough law but not enough order, and too few Gardaí on the beat in towns and cities.

“The Minister for Justice should be focusing more on that and less on legislation such as preventing hate crime,” said Deputy O’Dea.