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Sam Boal

Justice minister to seek fast-tracking of blasphemy Bill

Almost 65% voted in favour of the 37th amendment to the Constitution in the blasphemy referendum.

THE SCHEME OF the Bill to repeal the offence of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution will go before Cabinet today.

In October, on the same day as the presidential election, the Irish people voted to remove the reference by 65% of the vote.

The news was welcomed across the globe, with many outlets speaking to the link between the decision and an investigation into whether or not comedian Stephen Fry broke the blasphemy law when he appeared on RTÉ in recent years.

The Constitution says that publishing or saying something blasphemous is an offence punishable under law.

The memo being brought to Cabinet today on behalf of the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan (who is currently on State business in Marrakech) will also seek a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny from the Business Committee.

The minister’s thinking is that the Scheme of the Bill reflects the decision taken by the people in the referendum, the Bill is short and not particularly complex, and it would be difficult to justify any significant delay in bringing forward the necessary legislative proposals give the vote of the Irish people.

The referendum on blasphemy took place on 26 October with the Bill being signed by  President Michael D Higgins on 27 November.

Speaking in the Dáil at the time, 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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