By Emma Graham-Harrison
Campaigners in Ireland celebrated the end of a “medieval” ban on blasphemy on Saturday, after voters overwhelmingly backed removing the offence from the constitution in a referendum.
The referendum saw 64.85% vote yes to remove the prohibition on blasphemy, with 35.15% in favour of retaining it. A total of 951,650 people voted for the change, with 515,808 opposing the move. The decision on a turnout of 43.79%, was the latest reflection of seismic social and political changes in Ireland, which the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has described as a “quiet revolution”.
“It means that we’ve got rid of a medieval crime from our constitution that should never have been there,” said Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland, which had campaigned for years to have blasphemy taken out of the constitution.
Voters also returned president Michael D. Higgins to office, giving the 77-year-old poet and human rights campaigner another seven-year term by a comfortable margin.
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