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Holy Law

A group of Dáil backbenchers have quietly declared war on God.

The joint committee on the Constitution yesterday published a report on freedom of expression and blasphemy.

Bunreacht na hÉireann allows the Oireachtas to punish the publishers of ‘blasphemous, seditious or indecent matters’.

However, a Defamation bill making its way into law abolishes the offence of blasphemy in the 1961 Act it replaces.

And Supreme Court rulings make it almost impossible to prosecute a blasphemer anyway.

Chairperson Sean Ardagh says the constitution should be amended to bring it into line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Freedom of speech is conceded only grudgingly in Bunreacht na hÉireann, a document which spends more time listing the exceptions the government can make than on the principle itself.

But don’t expect overnight change. Ardagh has said the ‘amendment is not immediately necessary but recommends that change be made when an appropriate opportunity presents.’

The committee nervously notes the furore caused by Tommy Tiernan on the Late Late Show, the Jerry Springer opera, and Danish cartoonists.

In other words, there’s little chance of anything happening soon, given the predictable howls of outrage Fianna Fáil would face from its conservative supporters.