Irish Blasphemy law – a step back from the brink?

The protests and the ridicule may be having an effect.

From The Official Website of the President of Ireland:

President McAleese has decided to convene a meeting of the Council of State, under Article 26 of the Constitution, to be held at Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday 22nd July at 6:30pm, for the purpose of consulting with the Council regarding the Defamation Bill 2006 and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009.

To put this in perspective, this will be only the 27th time a Council of State has been convened since the Constitution of Ireland came into force at the end of 1937. The last time was in 2007.

Paragraph 1.1 of Article 26 of the Constitution states:

The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer any Bill to which this Article applies to the Supreme Court for a decision on the question as to whether such Bill or any specified provision or provisions of such Bill is or are repugnant to this Constitution or to any provision thereof.

Ireland may yet be saved from a return to the Dark Ages!

(Tip: Mick Nugent on Twitter)

UPDATE: (18 July) cearta.ie, the blog of Trinity College law lecturer Dr Eoin O’Dell, has an interesting analysis of the prospects. Basically, it will come down to how much influence the European Convention of Human Rights, which enshrines freedom of expression, has over the Irish Constitution, which says blasphemy should be punished. Whether the Council decides the bill is unconstitutional, or it is passed and challenged at the first attempt to get a prosecution under it, he concludes

the blasphemy provisions of the Defamation Bill will get their day in court


2 Responses to “Irish Blasphemy law – a step back from the brink?”

  1. Eoghan says:

    This Council of the state was called because of the Criminal Justice Bill which allows for non-jury trials in certain criminal cases. Because the Defamation Bill was tacked on as part of the Criminal Justice Bill, it will also be examined but I doubt anything will happen in relation to it as it does not conflict with our messed up constitution.
    So, it looks like we’re probably still screwed.

  2. [...] The saga of the Defamation Bill, 2006 is not over yet. Article 26 of Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution) allows the President, after consultation with Council of State, to refer a Bill to the Supreme Court for a determination of its constitutionality. President McAleese has chosen convene the Council of State to advise her on the qustion of whether to refer not only the (controversial) Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2009 (an unsurprising move) but also the (equally controversial) blasphemy elements of the Defamation Bill, 2006 (which has come as a great surprise). (See Belfast Telegraph | BreakingNews.ie | Bock the Robber | ICCL | Irish Emigrant | Irish Independent | RTÉ news | Irish Times | PA | Slugger O’Toole. Update (18 July 2009): see also Irish Examiner | Irish Times here and here | Irish Independent | MediaWatchWatch). [...]