Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

2:55 pm

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)

I will not mince my words about this issue. I will be very factual. I am going to call something out here today. I want to see what the Taoiseach, the Government and the rest of the people inside in this House think of it. Why is it becoming acceptable in the Ireland of today that people can go on social media platforms and say whatever they like about whomever they like? It can be about members of An Garda Síochána or national or local politicians. Just because a person sits in a car, puts a mobile phone - like this godforsaken stupid thing here - in front of them and goes online and says whatever they like, thousands of people will then come along and swallow up what is being said and believe it. People can say outrageous and hurtful things. They can attack people's families. They can attack individuals.

If the Taoiseach wants to know why I am cross today, I will tell him. People can say whatever the hell they like about me because it will not worry me or take one minute out of my head space. It will not bother me. I do not like it when they attack my family because they are my family. When they attack my friends, I do not like that. I am going to say this, however. It is not easy to say it, but I will say it. My late mother died in 2015. She was a highly respectable woman. She could speak seven languages. She never said anything bad about any human being. She supported all of us in every way she possibly could. She was a nice lady. When I saw one night her image being used in a derogatory way and in a political way, that pushed it over the line for me. Will the Taoiseach outline what is going to happen to social media platforms, including TikTok and all the others like it, that people can go on to? I am not going to say anything about any individual here, but there are people here who have had untruths told about them. Is it the case that just because people are Ministers, TDs or county councillors, they cannot say anything because it would look bad or would seem as if we are against free speech?

I am not in favour of the hate speech legislation. I voted against it. I am not for it, and I would never support it. I am against people coming out and telling barefaced lies. We had a situation in the local election campaign in Kerry, particularly in the Castleisland area. There are those who might have thought it was funny, but it was not because people's lives were affected. People's families, including wives and children, had horrible things being said about them every day. Is this supposed to be socially acceptable in Ireland today?

Well, I will not accept it.

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