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'We have finally removed a medieval crime': Campaigners hail blasphemy vote

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the vote sent a strong message about Irish values.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE IRISH PUBLIC voting to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution is another example of the country’s “modern, liberal society” according to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Late last night – long after we knew Michael D Higgins would be Ireland’s next president – it was announced that the blasphemy referendum had passed with 64.85% voting for its removal from the Constitution.

The provision of blasphemy in the Constitution had been in place since the 1937 Constitution but the legislation that provided for it had been long obsolete as there had never been a successful prosecution over blasphemy.

Minister Flanagan said: “The world has watched in recent years as we have taken landmark decisions as a people to change our Constitution with regard to some of the deepest personal matters when we voted Yes to Marriage Equality and to repealing the Eighth Amendment.

While today’s result may not have the same personal resonance to the same number of people, it is nonetheless another significant step in our Constitutional history. By taking this decision, we have again sent a message to the world, a strong message that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.

Atheist Ireland also hailed the vote, saying that Ireland had finally removed a medieval crime from the Constitution.

It said in a statement that the two-to-one margin is a “great result for freedom of religion, belief and speech, and for Irish politics based on integrity instead of nods and winks”. 

“The constitutional provision and Irish law on blasphemy gives comfort to countries where they have extremely draconian laws which are used to harass, to intimidate, to imprison, to subject people to violence,” Amnesty Ireland director Colm O’Gorman told AFP in an interview in the run-up to the referendum.

Flanagan has indicated that he will soon bring forth measures to remove the offence of blasphemy from the defamation and censorship acts.

With reporting from AFP

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Sean Murray

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