Boyle challenges blasphemy change

PLANS to change blasphemy laws could face a challenge from the junior partner in Government, the Green Party, who questioned the need for the measures in “a more diverse world”.

Senator Dan Boyle issued a statement yesterday to “challenge the need” for a change of law which the Government claims is essential because there is no crime of blasphemy on the statute books while it is prohibited by the Constitution.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he intends to bring in the crime of blasphemous libel as an amendment to the Defamation Bill.

Mr Boyle is a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution which said that while it wasn’t recommended to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Constitution, that it was a provision that would be impossible to legislate.

“The recommendation to leave well enough alone should be followed. In an ever more diverse world, where people can and do have widely differentiating religious beliefs, a one size fits all blasphemy law would be impossible to administer,” Mr Boyle said.

Asked if this was the position of the Green Party in Government, party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley simply said: “We have bigger things to be dealing with.”

A spokesperson for the party in Government said Mr Boyle was representing the view of the party and the party’s two ministers are having “ongoing discussions with their cabinet colleagues” about the proposed legislation.

Last week, Green TD Ciarán Cuffe suggested a referendum would be preferable to resolve the constitutional issues surrounding blasphemy laws.

Mr Gormley said at the time that he would not take this up until it was brought to cabinet and he could assess it fully.

The Bar Council has also called for a referendum to change the law of blasphemy which is the only criminal offence that exists in the constitution.

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