You Can Now Cuss God Freely In Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has voted to scrap the country's laws on blasphemy.

Ireland took to polls on Friday, to repeal laws prohibiting blasphemy, as the historically Catholic country continues its progressive moves.

The repeal of the laws supported by almost 65 percent of voters (951,650 people), while 35 percent (515,808) voted against the changes.

The vote to change the 1937 Constitution and the Defamation Act 2009, was held concurrently with the country’s Presidential election.

Exit polls on Friday by Irish broadcaster RTÉ suggested 71.1 percent of those who did vote have voted in favour of the change.

The law has been controversial for some time, as it is written in the same Constitution that protects citizen’s right to “freely express their convictions and opinions”, and the “freedom of the conscience and the free profession and practice of religion”.

However, some Irish did not know the crime existed until English actor and writer Stephen Fry made an appearance on RTÉ in 2015, where spoke about ‘God’s cruelty’.

The comments were referred to Irish Police by a member of the public, however the case was dropped after investigation couldn’t find anyone who was offended by the comments.

The blasphemy laws, which only apply to Christianity, stemmed from English common law during the English occupation of Ireland.

The 1937 Constitution, which acknowledged blasphemy and said it was “punishable in accordance with the law”.

Because of this provision, the 2009 Defamation Act included blasphemy as a crime carrying a fine of up to €25,000 ($40,200AUD).

The laws have been in Ireland since at least 1328, when Adam Duff O’Toole was burned alive in Dublin for the offence.

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The most recent attempt at a blasphemy prosecution was made by John Corway in 1995 against three private publications, Hot Press, Irish Independent and The Irish Times in the aftermath of the 1995 Irish Divorce referendum.

The cases against Hot Press and The Irish Times were dismissed because a lack of definition around the term ‘blasphemy’.

The cartoon that appeared in the Irish Independent. Image: Irish Independent

The case against the Irish Independent was taken to the High Court as a test case, over a cartoon depicting a Catholic priest being snubbed by Irish politicians it had published.

Corway believed the cartoon was offensive to the Catholic Church, however the case was rejected.

The last known prosecution under the controversial law was in 1855, after Redemptorist Catholic priest, Vladimir Petcherine, was convicted of burning a Protestant Bible.

Petcherine was later acquitted after claiming he had not intended on burn any Bibles.

This latest move comes as Ireland reinvents itself from a staunch Catholic nation to one of progression.

In 2017, Ireland ranked as the 11th country in the world on the Social Progress Index, and was classified as have “very high social progress”.

Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in 2015 with 62.07 percent voting to amend the Constitution, and in May this year, Ireland voted to repeal its abortion ban with a 66.4 percent Yes vote.

President Michael D Higgins, known for his human rights campaigning, comfortably won a second term in office.

Contact the author jdunne@networkten.com.au