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Irish citizens and politicians recommend that the recently instated blasphemy law be removed. Photo by: Irish Constitutional Convention

Irish Constitutional Convention backs removal of blasphemy law

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Irish citizens and politicians recommend that the recently instated blasphemy law be removed. Photo by: Irish Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention, a select panel of Irish citizens and politicians proposing changes to the Irish Constitution, has recommended that the recently enacted blasphemy law be removed.

The non-binding recommendation, which must be considered by government but does not have to be acted on, requires a response from the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) within four months.

The publication represents the sixth in the series of reports by the Convention, which met for the first time in December 2012.

The Convention recommended that the legislation explicitly outlawing blasphemy – which was re-introduced amid controversy in 2009 – be replaced by a more general one encompassing speech that incites religious hatred.

As the government has the power to call a referendum in relation to any issue raised by the Convention there is a small possibility that the issue will be put to the public.

Three referendums have already been promised as a result of the Convention’s work and three of its five previous reports have been debated in the Dail (parliament).

The Convention’s deliberations included input from groups such as Atheist Ireland and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland.

Its members voted 61 to 38 to remove the reference to blasphemy from the current legislation and offered a draft set of provisions for outlawing speech likely to cause religious hatred.

The blasphemy laws have had a mixed reception since legislated for in 2009.

Detractors have claimed that the laws endanger freedom of speech. Groups that have opposed the law include the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Atheist Ireland.

Swedish MP Karl Sigfrid threatened the government with European level legal action at the time of the law’s enactment.

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