Harney defends introduction of blasphemy law


THE GOVERNMENT’S decision to introduce a new law on blasphemy was last night defended by Minister for Health Mary Harney who said advice from the Attorney General said it was essential.

Last month, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern announced plans to introduce a new crime of blasphemous libel in an amendment to the Defamation Bill.

At the moment there is no crime of blasphemy on the statute books, though it is prohibited by the Constitution.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Questions and Answersprogramme last night, Ms Harney said the Law Reform Commission and the All-Party Committee on the Constitution had acknowledged that the current law could not be gotten rid of without a change to the Constitution.

Article 40.6.1. of the Constitution states that the publication of blasphemous matter is an offence punishable “in accordance with law”.

“And what the Supreme Court said was that we couldn’t convict somebody because we didn’t have a definition of blasphemy,” Ms Harney said.