Vote yes: Law must reflect fact Ireland does not prosecute for blasphemy

Nod-and-wink approach unsustainable as society grows more religiously diverse

On Friday October 26th, Ireland will hold a referendum to remove a law that has no consequences, the Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times, Patsy McGarry, explains all. Video: Enda O'Dowd

There have been no successful prosecutions under Ireland’s revised blasphemy legislation since it was enacted. During this time, criticism of religion in Ireland has been vigorous. It may therefore appear that Friday’s referendum is something of a waste of time. However, the referendum does provide an opportunity to do something important: to provide clarity in an area that has been characterised by a nod-and-wink approach that may become increasingly unsustainable.

Even an unenforced blasphemy law may exercise what courts have called a “chilling effect” where people may think twice before speaking in case they then have to undergo the inconvenience and expense of taking legal advice or explaining themselves to the Garda.

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