Monday 22 October 2018

Confirmed: The blasphemy referendum will take place next month

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has urged people to vote

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has urged people to vote in the referendum (Brian Lawless/PA)
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has urged people to vote in the referendum (Brian Lawless/PA)

Aoife Moore

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has made an order appointing October 26 as the polling day for the referendum on blasphemy.

This is the same day as the Presidential election.

The Bill moved through parliament this week following its introduction by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in the Dail on Tuesday, where it passed without opposition.

Mr Flanagan says the move shows Ireland values free speech and embraces multiculturalism.

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

A Constitutional amendment seeking to remove the reference of blasphemy from the Constitution passed all stages in the Seanad on Thursday.

The majority of Senators were in favour of the Bill. Independent Senator Ronan Mullen was the only one to express opposition to the referendum, labelling the vote as tokenism.

He hit out at the proposal as hypocritical, adding that anti-Catholicism is a bizarre version of free speech.

His suggestion was that the 2009 Defamation Act be amended to remove the offence of blasphemy from Irish law, adding it would reduce the cost of another referendum on taxpayers.

He claimed the referendum could cost the taxpayer between €3m and €4m.

The last known complaint of blasphemy in Ireland was in 2017, when Garda were looking into a formal complaint of blasphemy made against Stephen Fry and RTE after the writer’s 2015 appearance on RTE’s religion programme The Meaning Of Life.

The Garda later said they would not proceed with an investigation as no injured parties had come forward and they were “unable to find a substantial number of outraged people”.

Mr Murphy encouraged the public to engage in the referendum, no matter what their belief on the matter.

“Whatever your views are on the proposals in the referendum, can I take this opportunity to encourage voters to go to their polling station during this 15 hour period on 26 October and have your say in the outcome of the referendum”, the minister said.

He has appointed Barry Ryan, a Principal Officer in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to be the referendum returning officer for the referendum.

The total Irish electorate stands at around 3.3 million.

Polling will take place between 7am and 10pm.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section