Ireland blasphemy referendum: Vote could see the offence removed from country's constitution

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Ireland blasphemy referendum: Vote could see the offence removed from country's constitution

On 26 October, voters in Ireland will go to the polls to decide on whether blasphemy should be removed as an offence from the country’s constitution.

The law on blasphemy is generally seen as outdated, and while this is not as contentious a social issue as others like same sex marriage and abortion, a referendum is still required to alter the constitution.

The referendum will take place on the same day as the country’s presidential election.

What is the law on blasphemy in Ireland?

Under the constitution of Ireland, “the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” is punishable by law.

This was further defined in the Defamation Act of 2009, which stated that someone is guilty of the offence if they publish or utter “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”, and if they intend, “to cause such outrage.”

Has anyone ever been prosecuted for blasphemy?

No one has ever been prosecuted for blasphemy in Ireland.

The only attempted prosecution since the creation of the state was in the late 1990s when a carpenter called John Corway attempted to sue three publications for articles and cartoons relating to the 1995 divorce referendum. He was unsuccessful.

The laws around blasphemy were brought back to public attention in 2017 after it emerged police were looking into comments made by Stephen Fry on an RTE programme. In a discussion about religion, the writer and broadcaster asked presenter Gay Byrne, “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain.”

Police later dropped the matter, stating they were “unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.”

A constitutional convention first proposed changing the article in the constitution in 2013, and it was finally brought forward by the government in June 2018.

leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch. ShapeCreated with Sketch.Pope Francis visits Ireland â€" in pictures

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Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass at the Phoenix Park, in Dublin AP

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Pope Francis arrives at Phoenix Park for a Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin EPA

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A vigil takes place at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies from the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home in Tuam. The vigil coincides with the Phoenix park mass which is taking place in Dublin held by Pope Francis. Excavations at the site in 2017 revealed underground structures which held babies bodies with ages ranging from 35 weeks to three years old with most of the dead buried in the 1950s when the facility was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a Catholic religious order of nuns who received unmarried pregnant women to give birth Getty

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An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park Getty Images

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Children queue for communion during Pope Francis' closing Mass PA

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The Stand4Truth rally gathers outside a former Magdalene laundry in Dublin as part of the demonstrations against clerical sex abuse PA

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Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the Holy Mass at the Phoenix Park AP

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The names of the victims are read out as a vigil takes place at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies from the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home Getty Images

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Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park AFP/Gett y

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A member of the clergy carries a bowl of incense PA

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AP

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A vigil takes place at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies Getty Images

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Mem bers of the public pray as they watch Pope Francis deliver a Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park EPA

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Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin PA

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Pope Francis passes by a banner of a protester as he leaves St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AP

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Pope Francis speaks during his visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless in Dublin AP

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Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on Christchurch PA

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Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on College Green PA

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Members of the public wave at Pope Francis as he travels through the city Getty Images

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Pope Francis laughs as he leaves St Mary's Pro Cathedral during his visit to Dublin Reuters

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Two boys wave flags after climbing a post as they wait for Pope Francis Getty

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Pairs of baby shoes are hung from black ribbons on Gardiner Street in Dublin in memory of the children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway PA

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Crowds on O'Connell Street PA

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WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography/Getty

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Pope Francis memorabilia on sale on O'Connell Street PA

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Pope Francis arrives at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on O'Connell Street PA

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Pope Francis addresses the congragation at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AFP/Getty

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Stephen O'Brien selling bottles of holy water from the St Mary's Pro Cathedral PA

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Pope Francis prays inside St Mary's Pro Cathedral Reuters

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A man waves a rainbow flag behind a model of a pope which stands in the window above a bar Getty

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People hold a banner against Pope Francis on the way to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AP

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Nuns wait by the side of the road for Pope Francis Reuters

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A model of a pope is placed in the window above a bar as crowds wait for Pope Francis to travel through the city Getty

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Crowds on O&# 039;Connell Street, Dublin waiting to see Pope Francis as he travels in the Popemobile PA

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Pope Francis waves to wellwishers as he arrives at Dublin Airport Getty

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His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979 is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock PA

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Pope Francis talks to journalists aboard a plane flying from Fiumicino aiport to Dublin AFP/Getty

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LGBT protestors from Dublin Pride and We Are Church with flags and umbrellas on Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin to remember the victims of clerical sex abuse ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis PA

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Pope Francis disembarks from the aircraft as he arrives at Dublin Airport Getty

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Woman wait for Pope Francis to drive past, in Dublin Reuters

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Reuters

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar delivers a speech watched by Pope Francis in St. Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography/Getty

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Prote sters hold banners during a demonstration against clerical sex abuse, in Dublin Reuters

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Pope Francis plants a tree during a meeting with Irish President Michael D Higgins, at Aras an Uachtarain PA

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Pope Francis walks with the President of Ireland Michael Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography/Getty

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Reuters

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Pope Francis, center, is flanked by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, right, as they arrive to meet authorities, in Dublin AP

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Protestors wearing baby shoes, to signify the children who died in mother and baby homes in Ireland, protest in Dublin ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Franci PA

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Pope Fran cis exchanges gifts with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis speaks with President Michael D Higgins in his study during a visit to Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park, Dublin PA

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Navy band march prior to the arrival of Pope Francis at the Presidential residence in Dublin AP

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Eddie McGuinness from Dublin LGBTQ Pride carries a rainbow flag across Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis PA

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A message left by Pope Francis in the visitors book at Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park PA

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Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass at the Phoenix Park, in Dublin AP

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Pope Francis arrives at Phoenix Park for a Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin EPA

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A vigil takes place at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies from the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home in Tuam. The vigil coincides with the Phoenix park mass which is taking place in Dublin held by Pope Francis. Excavations at the site in 2017 revealed underground structures which held babies bodies with ages ranging from 35 weeks to three years old with most of the dead buried in the 1950s when the facility was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a Catholic religious order of nuns who received unmarried pregnant women to give birth Getty

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An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park Getty Images

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Children queue for communion during Pope Francis' closing Mass PA

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The Stand4Truth rally gathers outside a former Magdalene laundry in Dublin as part of the demonstrations against clerical sex abuse PA

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Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the Holy Mass at the Phoenix Park AP

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The names of the victims are read out as a vigil takes place at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies from the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home Getty Images

10/55

Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park AFP/Getty

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A member of the clergy carries a bowl of incense PA

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AP

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A vigil takes pl ace at the site of the mass grave which contained the remains of 796 named babies Getty Images

14/55

Members of the public pray as they watch Pope Francis deliver a Papal Mass of the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park EPA

15/55

Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin PA

16/55

Pope Francis passes by a banner of a protester as he leaves St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AP

17/55

Pope Francis speaks during his visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless in Dublin AP

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Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on Christchurch PA

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Pope Fr ancis waves to the waiting crowds on College Green PA

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Members of the public wave at Pope Francis as he travels through the city Getty Images

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Pope Francis laughs as he leaves St Mary's Pro Cathedral during his visit to Dublin Reuters

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Two boys wave flags after climbing a post as the y wait for Pope Francis Getty

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Pairs of baby shoes are hung from black ribbons on Gardiner Street in Dublin in memory of the children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway PA

24/55

Crowds on O'Connell Street PA

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WMOF2018/Maxwell Photogra phy/Getty

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Pope Francis memorabilia on sale on O'Connell Street PA

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Pope Francis arrives at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on O'Connell Street PA

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Pope Francis addresses the congragation at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AFP/Getty

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Stephen O'Brien selling bottles of holy water from the St Mary's Pro Cathedral PA

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Pope Francis prays inside St Mary's Pro Cathedral Reuters

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A man waves a rainbow flag behind a model of a pope which stands in the window above a bar Getty

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People hold a banner against Pope Francis on the way to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral AP

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Nuns wait by the side of the road for Pope Francis Reuters

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A model of a pope is placed in the window above a bar as crowds wait for Pope Francis to travel through the city Getty

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Crowds on O'Connell Street, Dublin waiting to see Pope Francis as he travels in the Popemobile PA

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Pope Francis waves to wellwishers as he arrives at Dublin Airport Getty

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His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979 is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock PA

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Pope Francis talks to journalists aboard a plane flying from Fiumicino aiport to Dublin AFP/Getty

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LGBT protestors from Dublin Pride and We Are Church with flags and umbrellas on Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin to remember the victims of clerical sex abuse ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis PA

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Pope Francis disembarks from the aircraft as he arrives at Dublin Airport Getty

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Woman wait for Pope Francis to drive past, in Dublin Reuters

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Reuters

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar delivers a speech watched by Pope Francis in St. Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography/Getty

45/55

Protesters hold banners during a demonstration against clerical sex abuse, in Dublin Reuters

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Pope Francis plants a tree during a meeting with Irish President Michael D Higgins, at Aras an Uachtarain PA

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Pope Francis walks with the President of Ireland Michael Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography/Getty

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Reuters

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Pope Francis, center, is flanked by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, right, as they arrive to meet authorities, in Dublin AP

50/55

Protestors wearing baby shoes, to signify the children who died in mother and baby homes in Ireland, protest in Dublin ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Franci PA

51/55

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar AFP/Getty

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Pope Francis speaks with President Michael D Higgins in his study during a visit to Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park, Dublin PA

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Navy band march prior to the arrival of Pope Francis at the Presidential residence in Dublin AP

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Eddie McGuinness from Dublin LGBTQ Pride carries a rainbow flag across Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin ahead of the start of the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis PA

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A message left by Pope Francis in the visitors book at Aras an Uachta rain in Phoenix Park PA

When is the blasphemy referendum?

The referendum will be held on Friday 26 October, with voting open from 7am to 10pm. Counting will begin on the morning of Saturday 27 October, with the result expected to be announced later that afternoon.

On the same day, voters will have their say in the presidential election, which will determine who will serve as Ireland’s head of state for the next seven years.

The incumbent Michael D Higgins seems likely to be re-elected, but will face five other candidates at the ballot box: Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada, independent Senator Joan Freeman, and businessmen Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey.

What is the question being put to voters in the referendum?

The referendum concerns Article 40.6 of the constitution which states:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

The proposal is to amend this by removing the world ‘blasphemous’, so it would simply read:

The publication or utterance of seditious or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

Voters will be asked if they want to vote Yes or No on the amendment.

How likely is the referendum to pass?

No polls have yet been carried out, but it seems quite likely that it will pass with a Yes vote.

The referendum on blasphemy will be much more low key than the recent votes on same sex marriage and abortion, which were deemed to be bigger social issues. That this topic has been scheduled to share a polling day with the presidential election is evidence that the government doesn't believe it requires as much debate or scrutiny.

There is a general consensus that this article of the constitution is outdated, and that a majority of people would agree it should be removed â€" particularly in the context of Ireland’s growing separation of church and state.

Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland

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