Republic to hold blasphemy referendum

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the blasphemy referendum was important for the Republic's "international reputation". ''Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the blasphemy referendum was important for the Republic's "international reputation". ''Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

The Republic of Ireland is to hold a referendum on whether to drop its laws against blasphemy.

It is expected to take place in October, possibly on the same day as the Presidential election.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “In terms of Ireland’s international reputation, this is an important step.

“By removing this provision from our Constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”

Part of Article 40.6.1 states: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

In 2015, a man made a complaint in Ennis Garda Station that comedian Stephen Fry had broken blasphemy laws during an interview with Gay Byrne on RTÉ.

The man alleged that the comments breached the Defamation Act 2009, but gardaí later dropped the investigation.

Gay Byrne asked what Mr Fry would say to God if he died and had to confront him.

In his imaginary conversation with God, Fry said he would tell God: “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right.

“It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

It is expected that the Irish government will also approve holding a vote on whether to remove a reference in the constitution to the role of “a woman’s life within the home”.