Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has outlined proposals which would make sharing hate speech online a criminal offence.

The minister has launched the findings from a public consultation on Hate Speech and Hate Crime with an intention to use it to develop new legislation.

The Bill will involve the repeal of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.

Minister McEntee said it was clear that many people living in Ireland do not feel safe because of hate crime or hate speech and she said that this needs to be changed.

Speaking at Government Buildings this morning, she said she expects to bring new legislation to Cabinet by Easter next year.

Minister McEntee said that this was not about someone causing offence to someone else. She said it would have to be a recklessness to incite hatred against an individual or a group of people.

It was important, she said, that there were clear definitions and criteria set within the legislation.

"What you don't want is within a matter of weeks of this being enacted, thousands of people who have seen a post or a comment or have taken offence or who fundamentally disagree with another person trying to press charges and going to the gardaí."

The minister said it was important that the legislation was communicated properly to the public, the gardaí and the legal system.

She said that hate speech was legislated for in the 1989 Act - but she said this legislation was about incitement to hatred and dissemination of information through various different mediums.

Minister McEntee said hate crime was new and at the moment somebody can be charged with a criminal offence like assault but a hate factor can only be taken into account once they are found guilty of that offence.

Under these proposals, if someone is assaulted because of a particular characteristic this can be taken into account from the very beginning.