Latest: Handful of people see Yes vote announced in Blasphemy Referendum

Update 11pm: Almost 65% of people have voted in favour of the 37th amendment to the constitution in the Blasphemy Referendum.

[factbox][item]For details on the referendum results and how people voted in your area, see here [/item][/factbox]

Just over 35 per cent have voted No.

The result marks the latest sign of Ireland's decades-long social liberalisation from a deeply Catholic society to an increasingly secular one.

Earlier, when it was apparent that the amendment would be approved, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "It is very much part of an ongoing campaign in many ways to reform our constitution, to make it a 21st century constitution or a 21st century Republic."

He placed the public poll among a series of reforms beginning in the 1960's when the state removed the special place of the Catholic Church from the constitution and including enshrining marriage equality and giving women the right to choose abortion.

"This is the next small step in what is a very big deal, which is the reform of our constitution, so the next set of referenda are pencilled in for May."

Removing the reference to blasphemy was backed by a Catholic Church which has sustained severe reputational damage from decades of clerical sex abuse.

Nobody has been prosecuted for the offence in Ireland since 1855, in connection with an alleged case of Bible-burning.

It was included in anti-defamation legislation passed by the Irish Government in 2009.

Blasphemy was defined as publishing or uttering something "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion".

Anybody found guilty could face a €25,000 euro fine.

Comedian Stephen Fry fell foul of the law in 2015 when he gave a television interview during which he was asked what he would say to God.

A viewer complained to Gardaí, who launched an investigation, but Fry was never charged with blasphemy.

Earlier: Irish Council for Civil Liberties welcomes support for Yes vote in blasphemy vote

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the expected Yes vote in the referendum on blasphemy as an important step for free speech and the modernisation of our democracy.

This group said that it will bring Ireland into line with international best practice in human rights, as called for by the UN Human Rights Committee.

ICCL has now called on the Government to repeal sections 36 and 37 of the Defamation Act 2009 which define the criminal offence of blasphemy.

“During our campaign for a Yes vote, our guiding principle was respect for freedom of expression," said executive director of the ICCL, Liam Herrick.

“However, we have also argued that the right to free speech is not absolute and should be limited to the degree necessary to protect people from hate- and hostility-motivated crime.

“Hate crime is something which is entirely different to blasphemy as it is directed towards individuals or groups, rather than ideas or institutions. There is no legislation in place to deal with hate crime in Ireland at the moment.”

Earlier: Blasphemy referendum result 'significant for freedom of expression', says Amnesty Ireland

Amnesty International Ireland has welcomed the result of today's blasphemy referendum saying it is significant for freedom of expression in Ireland.

Exit polls suggest that the Irish people have voted to remove the blasphemy law from the constitution by between 69% and 71%.

Colm O’Gorman

"While we await the final figures from the national wide count, it is clear at this stage that the Yes side have carried the day. Today’s vote is another important step towards a human rights compliant Constitution," said Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director.

"It follows the massive support for the constitutional referenda allowing marriage equality and ending the abortion ban. People in Ireland have shown yet again that they value human rights and freedoms.

Blasphemy laws like Ireland’s violate freedom of expression. At a time when this freedom is under attack around the world, this referendum matters even more.

"Now, States like Pakistan can no longer justify their own severe anti-blasphemy laws by pointing to Ireland’s Constitution.

"This referendum outcome does not make people's freedom of religion or belief less protected. The government must still ensure that everyone can manifest and practise their religion without discrimination or threat.

"We also need to have robust prohibition of inciting hatred on religious and other grounds, in law and practice."

Vote-counting in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Earlier: Blasphemy referendum set to pass by a significant majority

Exit polls suggest that the 'Yes' vote for removing the Blasphemy law from the constitution might be between 69% and 71%.

The RTÉ exit poll also showed an overwhelming majority, 71% have agreed to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.

While the Irish Times poll conducted by Ipsos/MRBI suggests 69% voted Yes to the referendum.

Michael Nugent from Atheist Ireland says if that is accurate, it will be a great result for freedom of religion, belief, and speech.

"We have to remember that they are only exit polls, they are not official results," said Mr Nugent.

"But even given the largest possible margin of error, it's very positive.

"Whatever the result, we would like to thank everybody who has campaigned for nearly a decade to make this referendum happen and to achieve such a good vote.

"Hopefully, when the full results come in we will have removed a medieval crime from our constitution."

Digital Desk


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