Irish Minister to Introduce Blasphemous Libel Law

The Irish Times is reporting that the Minister for Justice proposes to introduce a provision into the defamation bill under discussion by committee that will prohibit blasphemous libel. The provision would read in part:

A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.

According to the news report:

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

The Irish constitution (Article 40 para. 6 i) currently prohibits blasphemy, and is an explicit qualification of the guaranteed freedom of speech.

I suppose the notion is that of preserving public order, one of the key elements in the constitutional exception, with the dubious protection of an intent requirement in the proposed law.


  1. So who makes the call on what is considered blasphemous, and blasphemous to who?

  2. Gary P. Rodrigues

    In Canada, everyone who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment for up to two years. While the phrase “blasphemous libel” is not defined, there is an exception for expressing “in good faith and in decent language” an opinion on a religious subject. The Criminal Code further states that it is a question of fact whether or not any matter published is a blasphemous libel. No recent prosecutions for this offence are on record but the offence is an integral part of our criminal law.

    Perhaps the Irish looked to Canada for leadership on this issue.

  3. These people would put George Carlin (may he rest in peace) out of a job.

    In all seriousness – this sounds like the sort of legislation that is intended to placate some small group of people who really care about this sort of thing while not actually changing anything. How many people will ever get convicted under such a law? But at least the lawmakers can say they tried.

  4. Ridiculous. Simply ridiculous.

  5. This is purely an economic matter to prevent a repeat of the Danish cartoon fiasco.Ireland has huge interests in the middle east and it only takes one idiot publishing inflamitory material for Irish goods to be boycotted.Denmark trade in the middle east will be retarded for at least another 50 years.Ireland was quick to pick up the slack.We certainly dont want to repeat Denmaark’s mistakes,in these difficult economic times.

  6. Fintan – By that standard maybe we needs laws against pro-tibet advocacy to make sure some “idiot” doesn’t jeopardize trade relations with China. Seems for some folks any reason (including economics) is good reason to trample on free expression.

  7. Actually, I’m surprised that no-one has referred to the piece by Jeremy Patrick of Osgoode Hall in last year’s UBC Law Review (University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 41, p. 193, 2008) entitled Not Dead, Just Sleeping: Canada’s Prohibition on Blasphemous Libel as a Case Study in Obsolete Legislation which discussed the constitutional basis for a prohibition in Ireland and explains that there has been a sole case in the Twentieth Century.

  8. Indeed,no one has anything to worry about from this legislation.It is being enacted so as to prevent the deliberate provacation of the muslim world. Catholics and protestants in Ireland couldn’t care less what you say about them.
    There is one right wing British newspaper,whose Irish edition,has been particularly supportive of the Danish press.
    Also there are elements of the British establishment that are belligerant towards Ireland,and would like to see less competion for for their own companies.These people are not above dirty tricks.

  9. Maybe instead of banning expression people should not be so easily provoked.

  10. As an Irish citizen, I am concerned by the overly broad nature of the law, in particular that it applies toward “any religion”.

    I don’t need to explain the potential slippery slope this brings about. Essentially, all that is required to silence speech is a member of any religion claiming offense to a given statement.

    I admire Ireland’s propensity to buck the EU norms, however, this one is not good for Ireland or its people.