The Dáil will this evening debate a Bill brought forward by Fianna Fáil aimed at tackling hate crime.

The ‘Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill 2016’ has been brought forward by Equality, Immigration and Integration spokesperson Fiona O’Loughlin and Disability Spokesperson, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “This Bill essentially seeks to tackle hate crimes in an effective and robust manner. It will ensure that the option is open to the Gardai and the Director of Public Prosecutions to pursue a hate crime conviction should such an offence have occurred.

“Under this Bill, if someone is convicted of an offence that is aggravated by prejudice or hatred, then this must be taken into account when sentencing.

“Ireland is out of step in not having specific hate crime laws. I firmly believe that such legislation is needed and that there is an onus on us to make it clear that such hatred will not be tolerated in our society.

Disability Spokesperson Margaret Murphy O’Mahony commented, “This Bill is a positive step forward in enhancing and protecting the rights of persons with a disability. It is my hope that this Bill will not only make hate crime based on disability an offence, but it will also improve the reporting and recording of hate crime which is generally considered to be under reported.

“Hate crime legislation is in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. Fianna Fáil has introduced this Bill to help bring our legislation up to date. We look forward to the debate and to discussing the issue with other Deputies. We are bringing forward this legislation with an open mind and, if it goes to Committee Stage, we will be more than happy to discuss changes and amendments that others may have.”