Government approves plan to hold blasphemy referendum in October

It is hoped a bill will be brought to the Dáil in the coming weeks

Government approves plan to hold blasphemy referendum in October

Photocall file photo

The Government has approved a plan to hold a referendum on the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said it could take place in October, possibly on the same day as a presidential election.

That is likely to be alongside another referendum: to remove the part of the Constitution that states that without a woman's place in the home, the common good cannot be achieved.

The line of the Constitution the minister wants removed is: "The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law."

Minister Flanagan said: "I am pleased to announce that the Government today agreed to my proposal to hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

"In terms of Ireland’s international reputation, this is an important step.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan | File photo

"Regrettably, there are some countries in the world where blasphemy is an offence, the punishment of which is being put to death.

"In these countries, such laws are not an anachronism but a very real threat to the lives of those who do not share the views of those enforcing the laws.

"Such situations are abhorrent to our beliefs and values.

"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."

He hopes to initiate the bill in the Dáil in the coming weeks, so that a Referendum Commission can be set up.

The Defamation Act 2009 makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine.