Ireland votes to remove crime of blasphemy | News | DW | 27.10.2018
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Ireland votes to remove crime of blasphemy

An overwhelming majority of Irish voters have supported plans to delete the blasphemy article from the constitution. Voters also re-elected incumbent Michael D Higgins as president.

Exit polls from Friday's referendum in Ireland on whether to decriminalize blasphemy — the act of insulting religious figureheads or things considered sacred — indicate that a large majority of voters have agreed with plans to delete the clause from the country's constitution.

The Irish Times Ipsos MRBI exit poll suggests 69 percent of Irish voters supported the removal versus 31 percent who disagreed.

Older voters reticent

The newspaper's data showed the deletion of the blasphemy article was strongly backed by young voters, whereas among older citizens, some 48 percent voted to retain the clause as it stands.

The poll was conducted among 4,365 respondents at polling stations throughout the country on Friday.

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The Irish Constitution states that the public can express freely their convictions and opinions. But the publication or utterance of a blasphemous comment is a criminal offense.

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Ireland holds vote on blasphemy laws

Irish law defines blasphemy as a "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."

The crime is punishable by a €25,000 ($28,400) fine.

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The last attempted prosecution is believed to have involved a priest who accidentally burned a bible in 1855.

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When Fry bad-mouthed God

The law was, however, heavily criticized three years ago when police were forced to investigate British TV personality Stephen Fry for calling God "stupid" during an interview.

Plans to hold a referendum on removing the article were agreed two years ago between the ruling Fine Gael party and a number of independent MPs that make up the governing coalition, the Irish Times said.

This latest vote follows a May referendum in which citizens overturned a constitutional abortion ban by a landslide 66 percent.

Irish President Michael Higgins (picture-alliance/dpa/N. Carson)

Irish President Michael Higgins is expected to retain his post

Michael D Higgins elected for second presidential term

As well as voting in the referendum, Irish people cast their ballots for a president on Friday. Incumbent Michael D Higgins was declared president for another seven years on Saturday evening. Higgins beat five other candidates to win a second term in the largely ceremonial post after scoring 55.8 percent of the first preference votes. 

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