Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty
By Henry McDonald
An international group of atheists and secularists including the scientists Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker has challenged the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, to hold a referendum to repeal Ireland’s 21st century blasphemy law.
Ahead of an historic first meeting between a taoiseach and Irish atheists in Dublin on Tuesday, the group told Kenny that it was his “duty to protect a strong position on behalf of those intimidated in Ireland and, more importantly, on behalf of those facing execution by nations who cite Irish blasphemy laws in justification and mitigation of their behaviour.”
The blasphemy law was introduced in July 2009 by the then Fianna Fáil-led government. Breach of the law is punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£19,000).
The letter to the republic’s prime minister, signed by the Irish comedian Ed Byrne and the gay rights activist Rory O’Neill (AKA drag queen Panti), as well as leading figures in science and politics, criticised the Dublin government’s decision to renege on its promise to hold a blasphemy referendum.
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