Commenting ahead of the referendum next Friday, Fianna Fáil Justice and Equality Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan TD has said, “In a Republic it is important that we all recognise and respect the right of individuals to express their religious beliefs.
“That right is provided for in Article 44 of our Constitution which expressly states; “Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen”.
“Ireland has now become home for people of many different religious beliefs; but it is also home for those who have no religious beliefs. It is my view that religions in Ireland are secure enough to withstand the removal of the crime of blasphemy from our constitution.
“Religions are strong enough to withstand ridicule or abuse in the same way that all worthwhile institutions in our State have been able to withstand ridicule or abuse for many years.
“The law prohibiting blasphemy is, in practical terms, meaningless. There have been no prosecutions in recent times and it is generally only invoked by those who wish to portray Ireland as being a country that is overly influenced by religious institutions.
“The retention of the law will send out a message that people who hold religious beliefs are entitled to greater protection in our law than those who do not hold religious beliefs. That is not consistent with the principles of our Republic. Its removal, however, will not diminish the respect that we as a Republic have for freedom of conscience and the practice of religions.
“Religious faiths will continue to be protected in our diverse and pluralist society. This referendum is not about disrespecting religions but rather it is about acknowledging that religious faith in Ireland is strong enough to survive without unnecessary and anachronistic crimes being retained in our Constitution. “