Sunday 22 July 2018

Having a token vote to remove the blasphemy law is pointless

Ending the constitutional ban on insulting God will do nothing to stem the attack on free speech, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

'Treating everyone equally by abolishing the nonsense that there's an inalienable right not to be offended might well be the best way to go. That, however, is not what Leo Varadkar's Government is planning to do.' Photo: Laura Hutton/PA
'Treating everyone equally by abolishing the nonsense that there's an inalienable right not to be offended might well be the best way to go. That, however, is not what Leo Varadkar's Government is planning to do.' Photo: Laura Hutton/PA

Of all the things that the Government could have done to follow up on the abortion referendum, having another vote to remove the constitutional prohibition on blasphemy is surely the most pointless.

The only thing that comes anywhere near to it in pointlessness is having a referendum to remove the Article stating that a woman should not be forced by "economic necessity" to work outside the home. Neither Article is ever invoked, never mind enforced, rendering both referendums meaningless theatre which, pass or fail, will make absolutely no difference to anyone's life.

It's the blasphemy referendum which is the most irksome. The relevant Article states: "The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law." The Dail could, to all practical intents and purposes, legislate away every punishment for blasphemy without breaching the text of the Constitution at all.

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