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Increasingly secular Ireland votes to end blasphemy law

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By Daniel Bellamy
Increasingly secular Ireland votes to end blasphemy law

Ireland has voted to ditch its blasphemy law on the same day it voted in a presidential election.

An exit poll on Saturday afternoon suggested over 70 percent of the country voted to get rid of the law on Friday.

"I voted ‘Yes’ for the blasphemy referendum because I think Ireland really needs to move away from religion a lot. We’ve really moved forward a lot and it’s really about progress," one woman said.

It is currently punishable by a €25,000 fine, although the last attempted prosecution is believed to have involved a priest who accidentally burnt a bible in 1855 - before blasphemy was enshrined in the 1937 constitution - rendering the present-day law largely obsolete.

The law was heavily criticised three years ago when police were forced to investigate British TV personality Stephen Fry for calling God "stupid" during an interview.

Many high-profile Irish figures have signalled their backing for the referendum for some years.

Meanwhile counting in the presidential vote suggests that the incumbent, Michael Higgins, is the overwhelming favourite to win.

The president is the head of state and it's a mostly ceremonial role.