A New Electoral Commission Can Tackle Discriminatory Rhetoric and Hate Speech in Elections Says Human Rights and Equality Commission

Eliminating the use of discriminatory rhetoric and hate speech in political campaigning should be part of the mandate of any new electoral commission, alongside promoting broad and equal participation in the electoral process, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“The Commission”) has stated today.

The Commission has today published its recommendations to Government on the establishment of a new electoral commission for Ireland.

The Commission makes specific recommendations, including that:

  1. The electoral commission should have a mandate to address the use of discriminatory rhetoric and hate speech in political campaigning by developing and promoting standards in political discourse during elections and referendums.
  2. The electoral commission should set and monitor standards for the use of polling stations, which ensure people’s right to vote. Persons with disabilities should participate in the setting these standards.
  3. The electoral commission should have a policy development role as happens in New Zealand and the UK. Its mandate should promote more equal political participation, and specifically for groups who face barriers such as women, persons with disabilities, young people, migrants and people from ethnic minority backgrounds including Travellers and Roma.

In relation to the role a new electoral commission could play in combatting discriminatory rhetoric, the Commission states that while political debates during elections and referendums should be free and open, they should not create or entrench divisions in society.

The Commission has made its comments on the establishment of a new electoral commission in line with its mandate to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in the State relating to the protection of human rights and equality, and to make recommendations to the Government to strengthen and uphold human rights and equality in the State.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Regulation, accountability and transparency in relation to elections and referendums are crucially important to the integrity of our democracy, and the Commission supports the establishment of an independent electoral commission in law.

 “Elections are about showing leadership. While political debates during elections and referendums should be free and open, they should not create or entrench divisions in society. Hate speech and discriminatory rhetoric has no place in our politics.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The policy statement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/response-to-the-public-consultation-on-a-regulatory-impact-analysis-on-the-establishment-of-an-electoral-commission/

The full text of the recommendations made by the Commission are as follows:

  • The Commission recommends that an electoral commission would be mandated to address the use of discriminatory rhetoric and hate speech in political campaigning by developing and promoting standards in political discourse during elections and referendums.
  • The Commission reiterates its call that a review of the Electoral Acts be undertaken with a view to considering a clearer linkage of the restrictions placed on ‘third party’ activity and activity for ‘political purposes’ with electoral matters. The Commission further recommends that any issues identified in the course of that review be duly considered in the process of defining the scope of provisions to regulate online political advertising so as to avoid placing undue restrictions on civil society activity.
  • The Commission recommends that the Electoral Commission would have a policy development role and should be specifically mandated to promote more equal political participation.
  • The Commission recommends that the Electoral Commission should engage groups facing barriers to participating in the Irish electoral process, such as women, persons with disabilities, young people, migrants and people from ethnic minority backgrounds including Travellers and Roma.
  • The Commission recommends that an electoral commission should set standards for the use of polling stations that are compliant with the constitutional right to vote and the obligations of all public bodies under S.42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act, 2014. Persons with disabilities should participate in the setting of such standards, the implementation of which an electoral commission could monitor by developing appropriate performance indicators.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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