Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to strengthen the law against hate crimes and hate speech, with the aim of making it easier to secure convictions in the courts.

The new measures will be announced later today, with legislation being introduced in the Oireachtas in the autumn.

Minister McEntee has signalled that she is amending her approach to the forthcoming Incitement to Hatred and Hate Crime Bill, with the aim of making it easier to secure convictions.

The mechanism is to create new aggravated versions of existing offences, where those offences are motivated by prejudice against what is termed a "protected characteristic" of the victim.

These include race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, gender and disability.

Minister McEntee said she hopes the bill will be enacted by the end of the year and that the legislation will cover all forms of media, including online, print and radio.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said the new laws "must have teeth" and she will introduce new hate crimes with a specific set of characteristics in the bill.

The last law to deal with such matters was introduced in 1989, she said, and there have been just 50 convictions under the Incitement to Hatred law.

She said convictions under the new bill would carry tougher sentences.

"There are people living in this country at this moment in time who are not living their lives as they should simply because of fear," the minister said.

"We all have a right to feel safe and to be safe. For somebody to feel unsafe simply because of who they are - their race, their religion, the colour of their skin, their sexual orientation - it's not a society that I want to live in, and it's not what we should be tolerating."

The minister's aim is to ensure that aggravated offences will generally carry an enhanced penalty, compared to the ordinary offence.

Any conviction for such an offence would clearly state that the offence was motivated by hatred - that it was a hate crime.

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