‘The common law offences of defamatory libel, seditious libel and obscene libel are abolished.’
That’s the entirety of section 35 of the Defamation Act 2009, signed into law by the president, Mary McAleese, last Thursday.
The next two sections are devoted to blasphemy.
But the Bunreacht doesn’t just demand the outlawing of blasphemy. Publishing ‘blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.’
And far as I can tell, seditious libel was the only crime on the books.
Clearly, something doesn’t add up here. If blasphemy must be punishable by law for constitutional reasons, so surely must sedition. The great minds on the Council of State, who considered the bill before agreeing that the president could sign it, would surely have pointed out that a bill abolishing sedition was repugnant to the Bunreacht, wouldn’t they?
Since they didn’t, we can only assume that there’s no problem dumping sedition.
But that would mean blasphemy was expendable too.
Someone should have told the minister.