Referendum commission to oversee blasphemy poll announced

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy to act as chairwoman ahead of October vote

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy has been nominated as chairwoman of the Referendum Commission  set up to oversee the upcoming referendum on proposals aimed at removing a constitutional provision which outlaws blasphemy. File photograph: Alan Betson

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy has been nominated as chairwoman of the Referendum Commission set up to oversee the upcoming referendum on proposals aimed at removing a constitutional provision which outlaws blasphemy. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

A referendum commission has been set up to oversee the upcoming referendum on proposals aimed at removing a constitutional provision which outlaws blasphemy.

The clause in the constitution which will be deleted in the event of a Yes vote reads: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

It is expected the referendum will take place in October on the same day as the presidential election.

The Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy announced the establishment of the commission on Friday and said the chief justice had nominated Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy as chairwoman.

The other members of the commission dealing with the 37th Amendment of the Constitution (Repeal of offence of publication or utterance of blasphemous matter) Bill 2018 are the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall, the clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan and the clerk of the Seanad Martin Groves.

The principal function of the commission is to prepare, publish and distribute to the electorate statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the referendum proposal, to promote awareness of the referendum and to encourage the electorate to vote.

The commission will, in addition, consider and rule on applications from bodies or groups for declaration as approved bodies who may appoint agents at the referendum to be present at polling stations and at the counting of votes.