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Blasphemy Bill passes through Oireachtas ahead of referendum next month

Charlie Flanagan said the reference to blasphemy in the Constitution incorrectly identifies Ireland “as a country that does not value freedom of expression”.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A BILL SEEKING to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution has passed all stages in the Seanad.

The 37th Amendment of the Constitution Bill was introduced by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil on Tuesday, where it was passed without opposition.

The Bill will now be signed by President Michael D Higgins, and the Referendum Commission can start its work ahead of the vote on 26 October – the same date as the presidential election.

In June Flanagan received Cabinet approval to hold a referendum on the issue.

The line the minister wants deleted from the Constitution is as follows: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Flanagan said: “The provision identifies Ireland, however incorrect and misleading that might be, as a country that does not value freedom of expression and one that gives constitutional protection to a concept that many would regard as completely outmoded.

“Its very existence gives further comfort to those in other countries where the concept of blasphemy has a real meaning, one that can entail considerable suffering for those who run foul of the law that supports it.”

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Órla Ryan

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