Justice Minister to Amend New Blasphemy Law

The Minister for Justice is proposing to amend his new blasphemy law by providing, as a defence, that a person accused of blasphemy can “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” in the blasphemous matter.

He is not proposing to reduce the fine of €100,000, the onus of proof is on the defendant to prove this new line of defence, and the police may still seize and destroy blasphemous statements. The Minister’s proposed blasphemy law now reads like this:

1. 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.

2. For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters 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 (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

3. It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

The revised amendment has been published on the Oireachtas website. The All-Party Committee on Justice will discuss it tomorrow, Wednesday May 20. We in the campaign against the blasphemy law would welcome your opinions on this development as we consider our response to it.


“Minister Dermot Ahern speaking at the launch of the Victims Charter Tuesday 20th July 2010” by MerrionStreet.ie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    brendan heard May 21, 2009

    this is incredibly, insanely stupid…

    I am from canada, this sort of carryon is beyond me — have i moved to a kind of farmers iran?

  2. Avatar
    rob May 22, 2009

    Since blasphemy is sort of vague, I wonder would we atheists be able o use this new law against religious individuals who, surely, blaspheme against us when insisting that we’re going to burn in hell?

  3. Avatar
    Chris Fay May 26, 2009

    This is completely insane. On a point unrelated even to freedom to choose ones on beliefs but its a gross violation of the concept of free speech.
    Its absolutely ridiculous. If a religious person decides to slander an atheist or agnostic, its perfectly reasonable but dare you do it to someone with religious beliefs? not just this but you stand to loose €100,000??
    Id like to see this being brought up in regrades to an insult against Thor or Odin…

  4. Avatar
    Shane June 03, 2009

    It seems like he’s made a couple of concessions, but it’s still not enough, so we have to keep up the pressure. I emailed him (http://shanetuohy.com/wordpress/?p=176) and would urge you to do the same

  5. Avatar
    rob June 08, 2009

    How can this be ?

    So I say your idea of a god seems stupid to me. On what evidence then shall you charge me of blasphemy?

    Is this not a matter of law, where proof need be shown?

    Must we not first establish under law that you god exists, untill we do so I insult only your imaginary friend.

    And If under law your god is the one to whom I have shown offense, what then of your neighbours god?

    Do you really mean to say that hurting the feelings of you and your friends is now a punishable offence by law, to the tune of 100,000 euro ?! beacause what, there are more people who share your unprovable fancies than mine?

    Sit on that thought for a minute, Its beyond absurd, its dangerous.

    How can this be ?

  6. Avatar
    Michael Martin June 20, 2009

    I would like to comment if only to ask people to work and write to stop Justice Minister Dermot Aherns’s reactionary proposed legislation that would make the notion of Blasphemous Libel a criminal offence.

    I am making this earnest request as an atheist. As such, I am convinced that my lack of belief in all gods and the rational by which I live my life, and the scientific knowledge that underpins my values and beliefs, will when publicly expressed by me, almost certainly be deemed by someone to be deeply offensive. This will put me firmly in the category of suspected criminal.

    The right to freedom of speech is an absolute essential in a free and healthy Democracy. I cannot accept that there can be any “sacred” areas where the right to freedom of speech is to be curtailed and diminished. A limited Freedom of Speech is no freedom at all but a mockery, for it puts one person above that of another.

    I gave up all belief in things superstitious and irrational as a young man. I wish to express to you my horror at the idea that someone who still adheres to beliefs which are utterly unverifiable, utterly untestable and which constitute an assault on my critical faculties, can use these “personal beliefs” as a basis to make me a criminal for expressing mine.

    This is especially so because I base my ideas on the rational, on facts which are verifiable, testable and which in the light of future knowledge can be amended to encompass a greater understanding of life. No religious belief will ever entertain this principle and nor can it, for I believe that greater understanding and knowledge is the death knell of superstition.

    As a consequence I fear that this proposed legislation will in time and very soon at that, make criminals of those of us who seek to defend the rational against the irrational. There is nothing surer. Sadly things are even worse now with these new amendments where the accused have to prove their innocents. Guilty until proven otherwise.

  7. Avatar
    Yellowunderpantz July 13, 2009

    I think this new law is fantastic; a great ideal! I’ve been offended so many times by bible bashing, craw thumping religious nuts at my own door, I hope now I can get some peace! The offense caused to my basic intelligence when someone tells me I’ll burn in hell, or the man in the sky is watching you is without end. And then they tell me this powerful omnipotent being has one problem, he needs all your money. Create the world in 6 days, but can’t handle CASH!!!! What a load of CRAP!!!

  8. Avatar
    Eve Lim September 04, 2009

    I thought that Ireland had brought in the new law to put legislation in place to control the Muslim community. I wish the uk had done the same thing over here years ago. Muslims on the whole don’t integrate well with their host country, and have almost no respect for local religion and culture and will try to bring their own laws and expect them to be implemented. I have seen first hand what they have done in England. There are many religion in this country that coexist very happily, and have done so for many years. I just can’t think of any other reason why Ireland would do such a thing as introduce the medieval blasphemy law,especially as the country seems to have moved away from the church over the last few years. I had hoped it was a way of protecting it’s culture. Speaking as a lifetime atheist and believer in freedom of speech and, freedom to worship who or whatever you wish, i would be very sad and surprised if the Irish Government used this legislation against it’s own people

  9. Avatar
    Gavin MAdock September 19, 2009

    This country of ours never ceases to amaze me. The Government is already so unbelievably backward on most of its’ policies and now this retarded, medieval law. What year does the Minister really think it is! I, for one, really thought that the days of church rule were finally beginning to fade away. But just like the alleged return of J.C, it’s back to look out once more for its’ narrow-minded loyal sheep!

  10. Avatar
    GDWymer January 04, 2010

    Thanks for the heads up. Another country becoming like my own, the USA. I want out before the real Christo-fascism takes hold completely. And I had truly thought Ireland was becoming one of the more progressive nations. I guess the reactionary sentiments to the Islamic jihadists really are too much for governments to handle.

  11. Avatar
    C Riley January 05, 2010

    Do religions need laws to protect them? If so why? If I were religious, I would definitely pray to a god that takes care of her own business.

  12. Avatar
    C Riley January 05, 2010

    So what would be considered a “reasonable” person? That’s rather vague. Isn’t that the crux? Atheists and and believers do not commonly refer to each other as reasonable. Who is this perfectly “reasonable” person they refer to?

    And what would be considered a “substantial” proportion of a religion’s adherents that have been offended?