I had meant to write a more extensive post on the issue of the cultural naivety of the forms of censorships that characterised the foundation of the State BUT instead did a short submission on the Blasphemy issue to PEN. As I am mostly into poetry and visual art, it was torturous to have to write anything that is not poetic, so readers will have to forgive the stunted style…. and indeed it is here pasted :
Ireland enacts Blasphemy Criminalisation as part of the 2006-2009 defamation Bill.
On January the first (01/01/10), the 2006-2009 Defamation Bill was enacted under Irish Law, making Blasphemy a criminal offence which carries a 250,000 Euros fine. The Blasphemy amendment was mooted in 2009 by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern who sought to change the Protection for Religion Clause in the Irish Constitution to include all religions, citing multiculturalism and immigration as reason. It was considered by him at the time, despite endless protests on free speech to be an ‘Imperative’.
The Irish Statute, since this enactment, now contains a criminalisation for Blasphemy, which is not sited in the definition thereof but in the ability of blasphemic utterance to cause outrage, whilst some exception has been made to the Arts in this , regarding the issue of ‘Merit’, the arena is open for incentivizing legal actions against those who would cause offence through blasphemy be it in utterance, in artistic expression or indeed in religious observances! The issue of ‘merit’ in art is adjudged by an Art’s Council which , under the 2003 Arts Act is both subject to Ministerial Appointment and to funding on the basis of reflecting ‘Irishness’. This extraordinary situation has only occurred once before in the history of the state (at its foundation) when the naive new Government thought to ally the Arts of the state to the idea of ‘State’ and was a particularly Naive policy grounded in an understandable imperative and indeed a whole stock of censorship boards, including the Censorship of Publication’s Board (who didn’t like such luminaries of Joyce.)
I am including at the end of this piece a short set of notes re. the appalling precedent for critical censorship, the current enactment of the Blasphemy criminalisation on the Irish Statute; and the influence of the 2003 Arts act on funding and appointment in consideration of how we would judge the issue of ‘merit’ . The fact that the blasphemy clause in the Irish Constitution was not overturned by referendum but actually added to , to include other religions has direct implications for freedom of speech in Ireland, where in creating the criminalisation the Minister has somehow managed to elude the definition of Blasphemy; but to cite the legal offence in subjectivism and thereby incentivizing these legal actions against thinkers and ideas: As if human rights to freedom of expression were not attached to persons but to interest groups, who already hold sway in terms of agenda under the Fianna Fáil and Green government !
Dorothy Walker, ” Modern Art In Ireland “, 1997, Lilliput Press.
New Haven and London , 1991
Irish Media Coverage of the Potential Blasphemy enactment.
The 2003 Arts Act
Dáil passes the Bill, July 2009.