Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said he would like to see new legislation on hate speech introduced next year.

A public consultation has been launched to update Ireland's law regulating hate speech.

The consultation phase will run to 13 December, while a second phase dealing with hate crime will be published in the new year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Flanagan said it is important that our legislation in this area is fit for purpose.

Mr Flanagan said there have been about 50 prosecutions under the existing legislation in the 30 years it has existed, with a handful of convictions.

He said this proves that the legislation is "somewhat weaker" than it should be and is why the Government is now looking at improvements.

Calling on people to engage with the Department of Justice during the consultation process, the Laois TD said he wanted the new legislation to be balanced.

"I don't want to interfere with the fundamental freedom of speech but at the same time I'm very concerned about what I'm hearing as to the manner in which minority groups in particular are being treated and the fact that offensive speech, hate speech is becoming common place in Ireland.

"I don't think that is good and I want to outlaw it," he said.

Mr Flanagan was also asked about comments made in the Dáil earlier today by Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny.

The Sligo-Leitrim TD raised concerns during Leaders' Questions about the increasing use of "far right" language, particularly in conversations around Direct Provision centres.

Mr Kenny said that legitimate concerns people may hold about such centres are being "twisted into reasons to be intolerant".

Mr Flanagan said it is a "vociferous minority" who are engaging in the use of this language, and said he had no difficulty in calling it out.

He said there is an "onus and duty" on all public representatives to provide leadership in their communities.

Additional reporting Peter Farrell