THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION has voted for the replacement of the offence of blasphemy in Bunreacht na hÉireann with a general provision to include incitement to religious hatred.
Following meetings over the past two days, the Convention’s 100 members voted by 61 to 38 against keeping the offence of blasphemy in the Constitution as it is currently worded, with 1 per cent undecided.
Rather than removing the offence altogether, the members voted by a margin of 53 to 38 to replace it with a general provision to include incitement to religious hatred which would protect religious minorities.
Asked if there should be a legislative – as opposed to a constitutional – provision for the offence of blasphemy, members voted by 50 to 49 against this with one person undecided.
Members were also asked that if the Convention favoured legislative provision should it be the existing provision – controversially put into law four years ago – or a new set of provisions to include incitement to religious hated. They voted 82 to 11 in favour of the latter.
Members heard from academics and legal experts over the weekend with roundtable discussions and feedback sessions.
Interest groups such as Atheist Ireland, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties were also heard from.
A report will be now compiled and presented to government which will then be required to make a decision on what action to take and whether to hold a referendum within four months.
The Convention also considered what issues it should next examine on foot of public submissions and the outcome of a series of public meetings currently taking place.
The issues arising from the submissions and meetings include the environment; economic, social and cultural right; Church and State; political and institutional reform; the family, and issues of morality; and a Bill of Rights.