Blasphemy and the Constitution


Sir, – Anthony Layng (October 11th) takes me to task for being “conservative” in my piece “Blasphemy referendum a waste of time and money” (Opinion & Analysis, October 9th).

In fact my position is not “conservative” (God forbid). For I argued that if we must have a referendum on the blasphemy provision then the Government should be proposing to replace it with a constitutional provision against incitement to hatred, as recommended by the Convention on the Constitution (supported by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2014) and not encouraging rancour by merely deleting it.

I might be more convinced by those Yes crusaders who adopt the stance of the Skibbereen Eagle in respect to wanting to send signals abroad if they showed a greater awareness of the call for religious tolerance and against violence based on religion or belief that has been made by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (representing some 50 Muslim countries), and which was reiterated by the United Nations general assembly in 2011.

Instead, your correspondent Karl Martin (Letters, October 11th) and others crusading for a Yes vote in the blasphemy referendum select Pakistan as a bogeyman, writing that officials there cite the Irish provision in support of their repressive laws.

If that is so then officials reveal their ignorance of the Irish law and Constitution.

For the Irish Constitution and the current blasphemy law protect religious freedom and freedom of expression generally, and if adopted by Pakistan would provide a defence against abuses of human rights in that country. Indeed Stephen Fry, whose comments on RTÉ about God were reported to the Garda by a Yes supporter in order to stir up controversy, later described our blasphemy legislation as a “wonderfully Irish solution” when he learned of its details.

Should we also remove the protection against “sedition” from the same clause of the Constitution because the atheist government of China can use it to justify its sedition laws when persecuting Tibetan Buddhist and Muslim Uighurs?

I’m still voting No. – Yours, etc,


Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – We may vote to remove the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution on October 26th, but the Second Commandment still stands. – Yours, etc,