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AFP
October 28, 2018

Ireland votes to lift blasphemy ban

AFP
October 28, 2018

DUBLIN: Irish voters overwhelmingly backed lifting a constitutional ban on blasphemy, exit polls said on Saturday, the latest reform distancing the once-devout nation from its Catholic past.

An RTE television poll showed 71 percent of voters in Friday’s referendum wanting to remove the 1937 constitutional provision, while The Irish Times put the figure at 69 percent.

The referendum coincided with a presidential election in which incumbent Michael D Higgins was on course to be reinstated for another seven years in the largely ceremonial post, according to the polls.

Official results in both ballots are expected late on Saturday or early Sunday.

In practice the blasphemy ban is largely obsolete. There have been no successful prosecutions under the legislation since the birth of the Irish republic. But some of its critics said the ban offered Ireland’s tacit support to oppressive regimes around the world that restrict freedom of expression.

"The constitutional provision and Irish law on blasphemy gives comfort to countries where they have extremely draconian laws which are used to harass, to intimidate, to imprison, to subject people to violence," Amnesty Ireland director Colm O’Gorman told AFP ahead of the vote.

The law was also heavily criticised in 2015 when police were forced to investigate British TV personality Stephen Fry.

Politicians have long made it known they have intended to remove the provision.

The blasphemy referendum follows a landslide May referendum to repeal the country’s strict abortion laws.