The 2006-2009 Defamation Bill : The first anniversary of the Blasphemy Criminalisation in Ireland occurs January 1st 2011. The 2006-2009 Defamation Bill in Ireland is rather unique, it was railroaded through the Dáil in summer of 2009 through a system called the guillotine vote, together with a majority vote by the two Government parties, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.The Bill along with its blasphemy amendment then proceeded through the Seanad, and received the seal of the Irish President on July 23rd 2009.
The Blasphemy Amendment was implemented on January the first 2010 and we are coming toward its first anniversary on January the First 2011. An Úachtarán , President Mary Mac Aleese signed the amendment into Irish Law on July 23rd 2009: “In the Republic of Ireland, blasphemy is required to be prohibited by Article 40.6.1.i. of the 1937 Constitution. The common law offence of blasphemous libel was effectively replaced in 2009 by a new offence of “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter”. The continued existence of a blasphemy offence is controversial, with proponents of freedom of speech and freedom of religion arguing it should be removed.” (from Wikipedia).
We now require a constitutional Referendum to remove the criminalisation of blasphemy from our statutes and legislations as they stand on this the first anniversary of the implemented Defamation Bill. My last letter from Dermot Ahern TD ( linked in the Poethead Scribd) prevaricates on a suitable date for this promised referendum.
Analysis of the Blasphemy Amendment and the restriction of Freedom of Speech are published here: (Art 19 , OSCE. publ 2006 ).
“We welcome the abolition of the common law offences of blasphemous, obscene and seditious libel in section 34 of the Defamation Bill. We note with serious concern, however, the creation of a new offence of “publication of gravely harmful statements” in section 35(1), which may be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment. We further find it very worrying that provision is made for the summary conviction of a person who publishes a “gravely harmful statement” if the District Court considers the facts to constitute a “minor offence” fit to be tried summarily (section 35(5)), which may lead to imprisonment of up to 12 months. Neither of these provisions is appropriate in light of international standards governing defamation law. At the international level, the problems with criminal defamation laws are increasingly being exposed and criticised. The ECtHR has expressed its clear unease with criminal sanctions for defamation. For example, in the 2006 case of Raichinov v. Bulgaria, the ECtHR noted that criminal sanctions are appropriate only in certain grave cases, such as speech which incites violence. But in ordinary cases, the State’s use of criminal sanctions, rather than civil or disciplinary measures, will be a serious consideration as to whether or not the provision will satisfy the proportionality test.66 In its ruling, the ECtHR made express reference to earlier decisions expressing the same concern.67″
The above analysis occurred four years before the introduction of the Blasphemy Criminalisation in Ireland on January 2010.
October 27th 2010 : Irish times report on Press freedom in Ireland , Via Reporters Sans Frontieres:
“IRELAND’S BLASPHEMY law has caused it to fall from joint first to 10th place in the 2010 Reporters Sans Frontières Press Freedom Index. Last year, the Paris-based organisation, which measures freedom of the press around the globe, ranked Ireland in joint-first position with Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Ireland had jumped from joint fourth in 2008, and from eighth place in 2007. “Obviously the situation in relation to press freedom in general in Ireland is quite good, but Ireland lost a lot of points this year due to the blasphemy legislation,” the organisation’s Olivier Basille told The Irish Times . “The possible consequences of this law, both in Ireland and internationally, are very worrying.”Reporters Sans Frontières strongly condemned the law, which established blasphemy as an offence punishable by a fine of up to €25,000, shortly after it took effect on January 1st. “As it stands, this law offers legal grounds to religious extremists of all kinds. It allows them to use the force of the law to impose their views,” the organisation had said. “Ireland has just taken the EU back several centuries . . .”
Dermot Ahern is to retire at the next Irish general election, he has still not named a date for the required referendum.
Now the Irish people must await until the Justice Minister, who will retire at the next election, to name a date for a constitutional referendum to remove this offensive amendment from our legislation. That Referendum did not occur since implementation in January 2010 and is as yet unannounced for 2011. I will update here. This post will be migrated onto a separate Poethead page which has just been opened, entitled The 2006 Defamation bill.
This implementation of the blasphemy Legislation under the 2006 Defamation Bill was ill-reported in Ireland and appeared on January 4th 2010, as a result of a huge global media discussion of the Atheist Ireland campaign:
“ATHEISTS HAVE begun a campaign against the Government’s new blasphemy law, which came into force on January 1st as part of the Defamation Act. The group Atheist Ireland has published 25 quotes it says are blasphemous, attributed to people from Jesus Christ to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.
Under the new law, which the group is campaigning to have repealed, blasphemy is punishable by a fine of up to €25,000. It defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, and intending by such publication to cause such outrage.”
I suppose that our children will get to judge if an irish Justice Minister incentivised religious and legalistic battles regarding freedom of speech, and the creation of jargon by a Fianna Fáil/Green Majority vote.
- Irish Times January 4th 2010
International Pen Press release on Defamation of Religions
Article 19 , OSCE 2006
Blasphemies Category on Poethead