Ireland's €25,000 fine for blasphemy might end

Ireland's blasphemy referendum has been approved
Ireland's blasphemy referendum has been approved Copyright Creative commons
By Claire Heffron with Reuters
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Ireland will hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from its constitution.


Ireland will hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from its constitution.

The government has approved the preparation of a bill to remove the law as part of a commitment to reforms.

The referendum is likely to be held on the same day as the presidential election, later this year.

The Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said on Tuesday: “In terms of Ireland's international reputation, this is an important step. Regrettably, there are some countries in the world where blasphemy is an offence, the punishment of which is being put to death.”

He went on to say, “In these countries, such laws are not an anachronism but a very real threat to the lives of those who do not share the views of those enforcing the laws.”

In Ireland, blasphemy against Christianity is prohibited by the constitution and carries a maximum fine of €25,000.

In 1937, the law on blasphemy was written into Article 40 of the constitution, which states that the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

Then in 2009, the nation introduced another law prohibiting the “publishing or uttering [of] matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion.”

The Irish Constitutional Convention then recommended the repeal of the constitutional prohibition on blasphemy but the government postponed the issue. Proposals in 2014 to hold a referendum on the matter didn’t materialise.

However, in 2015, Irish authorities launched an investigation under blasphemy laws into English comedian and actor Stephen Fry. Only one person officially complained to the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ about Fry’s interview, in which he called God stupid, selfish, and “quite clearly a maniac.” It took two years until the police stopped the probe.

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