Irish blasphemy law set to go down in flames

You might be aware that Irish voters went to the polls today, among other things to elect the the president and, most important, to repeal the Irish blasphemy law that’s been around since 1937. As Quartz explains:

The Irish Constitution, written in 1937, states that “the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offense which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

In 2009, parliament passed an act that more clearly defined the boundaries of what the law considers “blasphemous.” According to the Irish Defamation Act, the key characteristics of a blasphemous text are that it be insulting to a religion, that it offend a large number of that religion’s adherents, and that the person writing or publishing it intended to cause that offense.

Once again we have the narrowing of “hate speech” to “defamation of a religion or its adherents,” as we saw yesterday for Austria.  But unlike Austria, there hasn’t been a prosecution in Ireland for blasphemy since 1855.  Last year the Irish police began an investigation of Stephen Fry for his anti-theist remarks on Irish television, which you can see below. Stuff like that should NOT be a crime!

Grania has sent me the good news, though, as reported in the Irish Times (click on the screenshot):

A summary of the poll:

The referendum to remove the blasphemy provision is set to be carried by a landslide majority, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll suggests.

The total Yes vote is predicted to be 69 per cent for, with 31 per cent against. There is a majority for change across all ages and regions and among men and women.

However, there was a sharp drop in the Yes vote among the oldest voters.

. . . The strongest majority to remove the provision was among 18-24 year olds (82 per cent) followed by 25-24 year olds (78 per cent); 35-49 year olds (76 per cent) and 50-64 year olds (69 per cent). The oldest age group – those aged above 65 – only voted in favour of change by a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

You go, Ireland! The country, despite the iron grip the Vatican once had on it, legalized same-sex marriage three years ago, and last year carried out a public referendum recommending (by a landslide) the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, an amendment that effectively prohibited abortion in nearly any circumstance. Last month that amendment was formally ditched, and at present a bill allowing abortion during the first trimester has been introduced.

Given that the anti-blasphemy referendum will pass, that part of the Constitution will be revoked by the legislature, rendering the 2009 anti-defamation law moot.

 

40 Comments

  1. Ross
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Surely “tea-shop” fits better?

    • Liam
      Posted October 30, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand this remark/

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The inexorable march of Enlightenment values marked in real time.

    • mikeyc
      Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      We’ve hit a Trump bump on our march, I suppose, but it will go on….beginning Nov 7th (fingers crossed).

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        The European Court of Human Rights ruling is also a bump on the road from the left.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          Eternal vigilance, lads, for the forces of benightedness are forever with us.

        • jayh
          Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:58 am | Permalink

          This is a very serious ‘bump’ As a member of the EU, Ireland is bound by their decisions.

          Time for an IRexit.

  3. David Butler
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Please get your facts correct. The election was for our President. Not Prime Minister. The public do not get to elect that office.- it is done by the government or majority political grouping in the parliament ( Dail)
    Thank you.

    • Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      My mistake, now fixed. But please try to correct your host more civilly. Look at that first sentence. . . . do you think you might have been more polite?

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        We are very sensitive.
        A very small country and our president is shorter than Merkel.
        (I voted for Higgens too)

        • Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          The wee fella

          /Grania

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            His wife is a Coyne. Perhaps you’re related.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted October 27, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          Sounds like a recipe for lots of Irish-German summit meetings.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted October 27, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

            Mamma Merkel just tell us what to do.

  4. yazikus
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Good news on this Saturday!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 27, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Fantastic news! I just wish we (NZ) would follow suit. I’m a very proud NZer, but am embarrassed and ashamed to say we still have a blasphemy law. It hasn’t been used since c. 1921, and human rights legislation means an attempt at using it would inevitably fail. But still it’s there, and that’s wrong for a country that prides itself on its human rights record.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 27, 2018 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        It probably hasn’t been repealed because it’s never been used and nobody cares about it. Any prosecution under that law requires prior consent of the Attorney General. Also, what constitutes ‘blasphemous libel’ is not actually defined in the law. So the question would probably default back to its origins in British common law (now obsolete in UK). Interestingly British blasphemous libel law applied only to offences against the Church of England as the state religion and explicitly not to any other religion; since NZ has no official state religion the whole thing would probably fall flat at that point.

        Of course alleged blasphemy could be prosecuted here, but most likely under the heading of ‘offensive behaviour’ or ‘conduct likely to lead to a breach of the peace’ or some such (every country has laws like that).

        cr

  5. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Trí spéis don Ghaeilge!

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    All the world’s evil is damn near balanced out by the schadenfreude to be had in seeing the look on Gay Byrne’s face in the middle of Fry’s answer in that clip. 🙂

  7. pablo
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    How does this relate to the EU’s Muslim blasphemy ruling? Can an Irish person say that Mohammed was a child rapist?

    • Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      You can say that anywhere. But in same places it will get you beheaded. You may think it was worth it. It might have been.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 27, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      It *wasn’t* the EU ffs, it was the European Court of Human Rights.

      And the court simply declined to interfere with an Austrian blasphemy law.

      They would have nothing to say about Ireland’s ability to make or abolish its own blasphemy laws unless someone appealed to the ECHR over some aspect.

      Next red herring…?

      cr

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted October 27, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        “It *wasn’t* the EU ffs,”
        Can you be more civil please.

        Wiki:
        “Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does have the power to enforce select international agreements reached by European states on various topics. The best known body of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.”

        Maybe you can explain to us if the European Court of Human Rights could have overturned the Austrian court’s Muhammad ruling.

        If that is the case, then is seems to me that because Ireland is a signatury of the ECHR, blasphemy is still an issue.

  8. Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    💚🌚☘

  9. Flamadiddle
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    We are gradually getting our sh1t together in this small country. Kudos to Michael Nugent and his Atheist Ireland colleagues for their sterling campaign work in this and earlier referenda.

    • Posted October 27, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Good. Maybe we will start getting ours together in this big country.

      • Diane G
        Posted October 27, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        I fear our very size and diversity precludes that.

        • Posted October 27, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          I am afraid the best we can hope for in the foreseeable future is to keep going like we are. Unhappy and bickering.

    • chrism
      Posted October 28, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      If Mick ever feels like a change, it would do us all good to borrow him and let him work his steadfast magic in north America. God knows, our atheist movement needs help…

  10. tomh
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    To be clear, is it just the blasphemy that’s up for removal, or is the “seditious, or indecent matter” included? Thanks.

  11. BJ
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations, Ireland!

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice to see that Fry made such an impact!

    Once again we have the narrowing of “hate speech” to “defamation of a religion or its adherents,” as we saw yesterday for Austria.

    As I tried to say yesterday, these are two different things that should not be confused. Blasphemy laws are instituted mostly long ago for religious reasons and concern religion. Hate speech are instituted in modern times and concern human rights.

  13. David Evans
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I imagine that since the recent revelations of the crimes of the Catholic Church there can be few people in Ireland who have not had blasphemous thoughts.

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 27, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    “Last year the Irish police began an investigation of Stephen Fry for his anti-theist remarks on Irish television, which you can see below.”

    The police investigation was to some extent a put-up job. They were obliged to investigate following a complaint received, I doubt with any enthusiasm. And the complainant denied that he was personally offended, but maintained that he was reporting a clear breach of the law.

    https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/garda-launch-blasphemy-probe-into-stephen-fry-comments-on-the-meaning-of-life-35684262.html

    cr

  15. Liam
    Posted October 30, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Most important is the Presidential election.

  16. Posted November 8, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Good news!


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