Thursday Sep 07, 2023

Unsafe Spaces

This week we celebrate another significant victory for the FSU! Carl Borg-Neal, 57, was unfairly dismissed and subject to disability discrimination when Lloyds Bank sacked him for using a racial slur during a workplace-based diversity training session. He came to the FSU for help and, following the first-class support of Doyle Clayton at employment tribunal, Carl is now likely to recover a significant sum for damages. Not for the first time, at the heart of the incident was a supposed ‘safe space’ during training that turned out to be anything but. In our discussion we ponder the ever-changing groups of allowable words and banned words. How are ordinary citizens meant to keep up with such rapidly shifting cultural sands? We move onto a very worrying case in Finland. Päivi Räsänen, a former politician, is on trial for hate speech after defending traditional marriage. This follows a 2019 police decision that she had committed no crime and a 2022 acquittal by judges in her first trial. We initially consider the implications of Päivi’s case for free speech across Europe, before moving on to discuss the origins of hate speech, wondering how the concept has come to define such a large piece of our cultural discourse, for both citizens and institutions. What is the line between hate speech, thought crime and even, in an Irish context, pre-crime?

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