IRELAND is set to hold a referendum on whether to abolish the offence of blasphemy.
Just weeks after the country voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the government has approved a referendum on removing blasphemy from the constitution.
The vote is expected to take place in October, on the same day as the Irish Presidential election.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “In terms of Ireland’s international reputation, this is an important step.
“By removing this provision from our Constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”
Ireland’s constitution states that the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter” is a criminal offence.
The Defamation Act of 2009 defined blasphemy as being “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion” when the intent and result is “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”.
It also made the offence punishable by a maximum fine of €25,000.
No one has ever been prosecuted for blasphemy under the 2009 act, however comedian Stephen Fry was investigated by gardaí last year over comments he made on Gay Byrne’s The Meaning of Life programme.