JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern has defended the introduction of a new crime of blasphemous libel, stating that a new definition was required by the Constitution.
Speaking after an Oireachtas committee meeting, Mr Ahern yesterday defended a fine of up to €100,000 that will be imposed on blasphemers.
The Government moved to revive the crime by placing it onto a fresh statutory footing following advice from the office of the Attorney General.
Gardai will now have the power to seize blasphemous material from the home or any other premises used by a person convicted of blasphemy.
The proposed law flies in the face of a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission which said in 1991 that there was no place for such an offence in a society which respects freedom of speech.
There are fears that the new offence may be used by fundamentalists to crack down on publication of material perceived to be injurious to faith.