Ireland’s lack of action on blasphemy law disappoints atheists and secularists

Jan 1, 2015

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

By Henry McDonald

Irish atheists and secularists have accused their government of breaking a promise to call a referendum over the Republic’s controversial blasphemy laws in the lifetime of the current coalition.

Atheist Ireland expressed disappointment that the government had quietly dropped plans for a plebiscite to rid the country of the legislation, which secularists have argued are incompatible with modern Ireland.

Last year, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition had promised a referendum on the blasphemy law to coincide with two other votes on gay marriage equality and lowering the age for when a citizen can become president of the state.

Earlier this month, however, the government confirmed that referenda will be held in the spring on gay marriage and the age of a presidential candidate, but excluded a national vote on blasphemy.

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14 comments on “Ireland’s lack of action on blasphemy law disappoints atheists and secularists

  • 1
    Miserablegit says:

    Ireland is slowly heading towards the real world, but this is a reminder of the problems it faces in dealing with the entrenched views of its religious past as the nearest thing to a European theocracy.

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  • 2
    Cairsley says:

    It was somewhat embarrassing to find that my country (New Zealand) failed to gain the high ranking it would have received in a recent international human rights survey because it still has a law against blasphemy in its statute books. The law is a hangover from British law (Britain has probably since repealed it) and has never been used to convict anyone. I suppose it is because New Zealand society is relatively irreligious and has found no need to invoke the law against blasphemy, that the law has simply been forgotten about and left for dead in the pages of the statute books. But, precisely because New Zealand is a somewhat irreligious country, people here do not like being in any way associated with religion in public, even those who might adhere to some religion in private. It would therefore be very difficult to get any New Zealand politician to introduce a bill to Parliament to repeal the law against blasphemy, for it would seem as though the politician had some particular view on religion — not a good look in New Zealand politics. Indeed, quite unlike the state of affairs in the United States, the merest mention of a religious view by a politician in public here would be poison to his or her political career. Obviously, the repeal of the law against blasphemy would have to be done as part of some other, publicly more appealing effort, such as aiming at strengthening legal provisions for human rights and personal freedom or at least at removing legislation inconsistent with existing provisions for these principles. But, since most citizens are unaware of the law and no-one has occasion to refer to it, it is so much easier just to forget about it.

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  • 3
    Cairsley says:

    Not sure what happened here, but the program played some trick on me. My apologies for the duplication. The comment above should be deleted; the comment below is the complete one…

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  • I have often thought all/most/many laws passed by governments should have a sunset clause, whereby the individual law automatically expires after x years. No effort need be expended to keep it alive, unless there is general agreement it is a “good” law. Normal housekeeping will strip out the needless or unecessary. Often countries will find bizarre legislation passed some years ago but which no one ever bothered to cancel.

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  • rod-the-farmer Jan 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Often countries will find bizarre legislation passed some years ago but which no one ever bothered to cancel.

    The danger is that some commercial interest or nutter group will dig it up, and revive it for their own agendas!

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  • 9
    Patrick says:

    Oh Dear, This site has a moderator. I had better watch what I write lest I be accused of blasphemy!
    Seriously though, I have just found this site, and I am very grateful to Richard Dawkins for his years long dedication and efforts to educate and raise the level of consciousness of the global community and to get everybody out from under the yoke of the worlds self-serving, influential and powerful religious organizers.
    I have read a couple of Professor Dawkins great books and now having found this site, I intend to become more active in helping with this great cause for humanity.

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  • 11
    Light Wave says:

    All I think of when I hear that scary religious damnation…is Jehovah Jehovah Jehovah… could it get any worse….Monty Python….

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  • 12
    Light Wave says:

    Yeah like the Ulster Politician who slams homosexuals and atheists….really modern eh…..
    And Ireland has such a staunch nasty bigotted dimension to its history – that reluctant element taints the true notion of a future without bias…not without religion …but without trouble stirring biggots

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  • Patrick Jan 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Seriously though, I have just found this site,

    Welcome to the site. Many come here and learn much from discussions with other well informed posters, and can also be entertained by some of the comical theist claims and thinking, which appear from time to time.

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  • 14
    Tintern says:

    Blasphemy law is a handy big stick to beat people with and this government is all about beating the people down in every sphere of our country’s life. They’re not refusing to remove it out of fear. It’s because they’re anxious to keep it. Make no mistake, they truly like it.

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