FOLLOWING the horrific attacks in Paris last week, which claimed 17 innocent lives, a local group is calling for a referendum to remove the crime of blasphemy from the Constitution.
The Mid-West Humanists (MWH) is urging voters to visit the offices of local deputies to demand its removal from the Constitution to support freedom of speech, following the attacks at the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in Paris.
Blasphemy - defined as the act of insulting, showing contempt, or lack of reverence for God, to religious or holy persons or things - is an offence under the Constitution blasphemy since 1937, despite repeated calls for its removal.
The Mid West Humanists said they support all people’s right to read any writing and any cartoon or other communication, whether or not it criticises or satirises any idea, whether religious, political, social, sporting, or scientific.
The group praised the work of staff at Charlie Hebdo, whose cartoons provoked controversy, saying: “In doing their job they enable people in Ireland, also, to read things that are prohibited in some countries. Since the murders the French government and people have stood firmly for the consequent right to publish any matter, irrespective of any offence to any ideas.”
“MWH ask all voters in Ireland to visit all of the TDs in their constituency soon, and to tell them that they demand that the Dáil and Senate vote for a bill to let us vote in a referendum on removing the sentence making blasphemy an offence from our Constitution; and to tell them not to include substituting any sentence in its place.
“Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists, and many other publishing staff there and in other parts of the world, and the police who have been trying to protect them, have been defending Irish people’s right to freedom of speech. The people of Ireland ought to support them by removing the offence of blasphemy from Ireland’s constitution.
However, senior sources in Government have said it is unlikely a referendum will be held before the next general election, which must be held by early 2016.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he believes the ban on blasphemy needs to be removed from the constitution, but has warned it can’t be done overnight.