Source: The Guardian
By Henry McDonald in Dublin
Tuesday 30 September 2014
Atheists and secular campaigners have welcomed the Irish government’s decision to hold a referendum that may abolish Ireland’s blasphemy laws.
The Republic’s justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, will bring a proposal to the weekly Irish cabinet meeting in Dublin on Tuesday for a referendum early next year. The proposal is expected to be ratified by the cabinet.
No date has yet been set for the vote. It could be held on the same day as a separate referendum on gay marriage.
Since coming to power four years ago, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition has been under pressure to get rid of the blasphemy laws, which secularists have argued are incompatible with modern Ireland.
Michael Nugent, one of the founders of Atheist Ireland, said a national vote to excise blasphemy from the Irish constitution was “urgent and overdue”.
Nugent, a comedy writer and one-time collaborator on a comic opera with Father Ted co-writer Arthur Matthews, said: “Islamic states at the UN have been citing Ireland’s blasphemy law as evidence that modern European states have no problem with outlawing blasphemy just as Islamic states do. You know you are doing something wrong when Pakistan is citing you as best practice for blasphemy laws.”
He said the measures should not be replaced with new clauses about outlawing any insult to religions. “We already have laws against incitement to hatred on a number of grounds, including gender, religion, sexuality and race. Why single out religion again and give it extra protection in the constitution?”