Repeal Blasphemy law – Irish Times Editorial

The Irish Times supports the campaign to repeal Blasphemy Law in Ireland in its editorial 15th January 2015

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Blasphemy law needs to be repealed

In practice it may be unusable but it remains on the statute book, anomalous and out of step with most democratic states.

Topics: Opinion Charlie Hebdo Human Rights Council United Nations France Sat, Jan 17, 2015,

The abolition of Ireland’s antiquated, unworkable and unused blasphemy law has rightly been put firmly back on the agenda by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But although the Constitutional Convention in 2013 recommended, and the Government endorsed, the repeal of the constitutional prohibition (Article 40.6.1.i.), and its replacement with a prohibition on incitement to hatred, the Taoiseach has regrettably made clear that it is some way down the priority list of issues to be put to citizens and will not be addressed in a referendum during the term of this Government.

Admittedly the case for urgent repeal is mainly symbolic and political, a means of expressing a commitment to ending the privileging of religion in a State that has in recent years embraced secular values. In practice the prohibition over the years has largely been largely exhortative although perhaps it could be said to have reinforced a culture of censorship – the only attempted, and failed, prosecution since 1855 was in 1999, a private case against the Irish Independent over a cartoon during the 1995 divorce referendum depicting government leaders snubbing a Catholic priest who was holding out a Communion wafer.

Legislation in 2009 gave long overdue legal effect to the constitutional provision, a lacuna that contributed in no small measure to the failure of the 1999 case. But lawyers argue it is drafted – deliberately perhaps – so that the prosecution bar is set so high it is in practice unusable. The law, however, remains on the statute book, anomalous and out of step with most democratic states.

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