Atheist Ireland welcomes the announcement today by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that our campaign for a referendum on blasphemy has been successful. There will be a referendum on the blasphemy provision within the Irish Constitution during October of 2018 and Atheist Ireland will be campaigning strongly to reform, update and modernise Article 40.6.1(i). This is one part of the continued lobbying by Atheist Ireland to secularise the Irish Constitution.
In February 2015, Atheist Ireland arranged a meeting with the Department of Justice officials looking at a possible blasphemy referendum, to which we brought the international expert on blasphemy law, Professor David Nash. One focus of this discussion included an outline from Professor Nash of the likely difficulties that can arise from time-to-time, when a blasphemy law remains on the statute book. This was a prescient anticipation of the Garda investigation into Stephen Fry, after his interview on RTE attracted a formal complaint about blasphemy. The meeting also discussed several possible approaches to the reform of Article 40.6.1(i), which included both the deletion of the blasphemy provision entirely, and also the replacement of that provision with one supporting the right to free expression. Atheist Ireland will continue to lobby on this issue in advance of the wording for the referendum being proposed.
Also in 2015, in the context of our meeting with An Taoiseach that included further lobbying on the blasphemy issue, Atheist Ireland published an open letter on this topic. The letter was signed by more than 40 high-profile academics, scientists and intellectuals, providing some very welcome extra weight to our lobbying efforts at that time. Atheist Ireland is grateful for the support of Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Lawrence Krauss, Maryam Namazie, Carolyn Porco, Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, Daniel Dennett, Andrew Copson, Patricia Churchland and many others for their help and support in this regard. The full list of signatories is available here.